Gay couples are not allowed to make joint political donations like straight couples, said the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week.
The agency that regulates campaign finance legislation in the US said unanimously this week that their ‘hands were tied’ because of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
In the US, when a married couple makes a joint donation, the contribution is marked equally under both spouse’s names. Because DOMA defines marriage as between a man and a woman, the FEC ruled that gay couples can’t contribute a single check under both names.
‘The Defense of Marriage Act is remarkably clear,’ said Donald F. McGahn II, FEC vice chair.
‘We just can’t disregard DOMA, regardless of what we think of it.’
‘Sometimes the law’s an ass, said FEC chairwoman Ellen Weintraub during the hearing.
The hearing came as a request from Republican Senatorial candidate Dan Winslow who was set to receive a donation from Gerard R. Gershonowitz. Gershonowitz asked that his donation be marked under his and his partner Howard P. Johnson’s name. They two are married legally under Massachusetts state law.
After the ruling, Winslow said in a statement that he will raise the issue again when the Supreme Court rules on gay marriage in June.
Winslow said: ‘It’s sad that in the 21st century the federal government is still denying certain people their First Amendment rights as guaranteed under the US Constitution.
‘However, I am encouraged by the FEC’s advice that I return to them as soon as DOMA is overturned and they will happily reverse their decision.’
Winslow added: ‘I strongly believe DOMA will be overturned by the Supreme Court and I look forward to taking the FEC up on its offer as soon as that happens.’
Winslow’s attorney Craig Engle pointed out that the ruling puts gay couples across the nation at a political disadvantage.
Engle said: ‘When Mr. and Mrs. Jones are treated one way and Mr. and Mr. Jones cannot because of how they hold their money, then there’s confusion.’
‘Sometimes what’s right is not legal.’