July 25, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
FEC streamlines political donation process for gay couples
Federal Election Commission, gay news, Washington Blade

The FEC adopted policy to ease the political donation process for married gay couples (Image public domain altered).

The U.S. agency charged with regulating campaign finance law unanimously approved Thursday a pair of opinions that brings its policy into alignment with the Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Federal Election Commission approved by two separate votes of 5-0 the advisory opinions, which will allow married same-sex couples to make joint political donations from an individual bank account.

The two advisory opinions were drafted by lawyers for the FEC in response to queries from both Democrats and Republicans seeking to simplify the process for married same-sex couples to make political contributions.

One request came from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which sought clarification of the process for which married gay couples on July 1 in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling on Section 3 of DOMA.

The other request came from the U.S. Senate candidate Dan Winslow, who sought to include a contribution from a married gay couple in Massachusetts who are members of the Log Cabin Republicans to help pay debts after his loss following the Republican primary.

In April, Winslow made a similar request with the FEC, but was denied the ability to take the donation on the basis of Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

But in both opinions from this month, FEC concluded that with Section 3 of DOMA out of the picture, married gay couples are free to donate from one account. The committee votes on Thursday means the FEC has formally adopted the opinions.

Guy Cecil, who’s gay and executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said he’s “pleased” FEC adopted a policy to treat gay couples equally in the electoral process.

“While this victory was a long time coming, it’s proof that with hard work our grassroots supporters can achieve victories outside of the ballot box, as well as on election day, that make our country a more fair and just place to live,” Cecil said.

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, had similar praise for the FEC in the aftermath of the commission’s adoption of the opinions as he noted “it was a decision that we were anticipating.”

“But that doesn’t diminish its importance, nor does it diminish the tremendous elation that we have personally as an organization for being able to step forward and not only bring this case before the FEC, but to highlight before the public in general that in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, there are still important legal questions that remain,” Angelo said. “But after today’s ruling by the FEC, it seems there is one less than there was yesterday.”

Seymour Reisman, a matrimonial attorney and partner at the Garden City, N.Y.-based law firm Reisman Peirez Reisman & Capobianco, predicted the decision will encourage gay couples to take part in the political process.

“As gay couples become even more active in donating to campaigns, they will not only impact House and Senate races in their home states, but this will encourage them to become involved in local and state campaigns in parts of the country that do not yet recognize their right to marry,” Reisman said.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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