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House Ethics removes gay-spouse proposal from congressional financial disclosure rules

This year, annual congressional financial disclosure forms (PDF), due May 16, would have included — for the first time — required information about married same-sex couples in Congress. But before the House Committee on Ethics‘ new disclosure rules were published, the committee removed that proposed provision from its instruction manual, reports Roll Call.

Last year, the ethics committee released a draft of the changed disclosure rules that included the new requirement, which effectively considered gay married couples as spouses for the purposes of reporting financial materials. Roll Call noticed it, inquired about it, and reported that the draft was removed from websites of the ethics committee and the House Office of the Clerk. Now the gay-spouse provision is absent from the new rules.

According to Roll Call, the proposed changes that made it out of last year’s draft include expanded sections on reporting capital gains and investments in self-directed retirement accounts, real estate investment trusts, government securities and hedge funds.

From Roll Call:

Under the heading “Same-Sex Marriages,” the draft version stated that “In 2009, there were a total of four states which issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont. (New Hampshire and the District of Columbia began issuing such licenses effective in 2010). If you and your spouse were issued a marriage license by any of these states and were subsequently legally married in that state, you must disclose all required spousal information on your Financial Disclosure Statement.” The new instruction manual deleted this section entirely.

[...]

Currently, Members and staffers in same-sex marriages do not have to provide information relating to the financial interests of spouses, though they can choose to note whether assets and sources of income are jointly held with a spouse or dependent.

Gay marriage advocates and opponents both criticized the idea of requiring same-sex spousal information, but for different reasons.

“It would be unfair to subject same-sex couples to some of the obligations of marriage without the benefits that would come with it,” said Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel for the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.

To opponents, the inclusion of such a provision would contradict federal law, though the Justice Department has said it will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. DOMA states the federal government will only recognize a marriage between one man and one woman.

“Just because the Obama administration decided not to follow the Constitution in defiance of the law doesn’t mean the law doesn’t still apply,” said Tom McClusky, vice president at the Family Research Council Action.

Neither objected to the idea of a disclosure requirement that would encompass unmarried opposite-sex couples.

“If somebody is living with someone, if there are questions of impropriety, there should be some reporting requirement,” McClusky said.

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