Former federal election officials file Supreme Court brief against Defense of Marriage Act
Six former officials at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the grounds that it stifles political speech for same sex couples.
According to The Huffington Post, the brief states, “The so-called ‘spouse exemptions’ under FECA and FEC rules free a candidate in an opposite-sex marriage to utilize for his campaign at least part of any asset owned jointly by the married couple. A candidate in a same-sex marriage is not free to do so because his spouse is not recognized as a ‘spouse’ under federal law.”
The law does not account for the recent passage of marriage equality laws in several states around the country, meaning that funds taken from joint bank accounts held by same sex married couples in those states would fall under the current campaign donation limits of $2,600 per election or $5,200 per two-year cycle. DOMA also places limits on donations to political campaigns and political action committees.
“Sexual orientation should never affect any American’s First Amendment right to free speech and association,” former FEC chairman Trevor Potter said in a statement on Friday. “Because of DOMA, though, discrimination is embedded in the very rules that shape political involvement. The Brief informs the Court of this fact to aid its deliberations on the constitutionality of DOMA.”
Potter was joined in the brief by five fellow ex-FEC commissioners, including Lawrence Noble, current president of Americans for Campaign Finance Reform. Earlier this month, another political action group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) also filed a brief to the high court arguing that DOMA would also excuse public officials in same sex marriages from the Ethics in Government Act, theoretically shielding them from rules governing financial disclosure.
“Gay people are neither more nor less ethical than straight people,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said on Feb. 13. “It is impossible to imagine the Congress that so eagerly passed DOMA would have deliberately exempted same-sex couples from ethics laws if members had considered the issue for even a moment.”
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