Friday, April 26, 2013

Campaign Finance and DOMA

In an interesting advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the ability of same-sex couples married under state law to make political contributions similar to opposite-sex married couples is thwarted by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Recall that the United States Supreme Court is currently considering the constitutionality of DOMA in United States v. Windsor, argued last month.

The advisory opinion explained the underlying regulatory scheme:

Notwithstanding the prohibition on contributions in the name of another, a Commission regulation governing “[c]ontributions by spouses” provides that “limitations on contributions . . . shall apply separately to contributions made by each spouse even if only one spouse has income.” 11 C.F.R. 110.1(i). Thus, under Section 110.1(i), a spouse with no separate income may make a contribution in his or her own name “through the checking account of the other spouse.”

FEC_Ellen_L_WeintraubIt concluded that "so long as the relevant provisions of DOMA remain in effect, the Committee may not apply 11 C.F.R. 110.1(i) to contributions from same-sex couples married under state law," although the Commission recognized that DOMA was currently under review.

In a separately issued concurring statement, FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub (pictured) emphasized that her "vote today was in no way intended to endorse the discriminatory, irrational burden that DOMA places on political participation by individuals in same sex." 

If DOMA is not declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court on the basis of equal protection, the FEC's opinion might be fertile ground on which to grow a First Amendment challenge.

RR
[image of Ellen Weintraub via]

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Campaign Finance, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Family, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Sexual Orientation | Permalink

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Comments

I'm puzzled. If the Supreme Court says it doesn't violate equal protection for Congress to provide that a same-sex couple that is married under the law of a state shall be deemed unmarried for purposes of federal law, then by what reasoning could such a couple -- more than any other unmarried couple -- claim a first amendment right to be treated as married for purposes of the Federal Election Campaign Act?

Posted by: Arthur Spitzer | Apr 28, 2013 11:36:19 AM

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