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House Ethics Panel Proposes to Recognize Gay Marriage

Roll Call breaks the story:

The House ethics committee has drafted rules that for the first time would define gay married couples as “spouses” for the purposes of filling out their annual Congressional financial disclosure forms.

The proposed change is found in new draft instructions for those financial disclosure forms, which lawmakers and senior staffers have to file annually, Roll Call discovered. The language says:

Same-Sex Marriages: 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.

But don’t be surprised if the draft language doesn’t make it into the final version. The proposal is already taking heat from both gay rights groups and those opposed to gay marriage. Roll Call explains:

For gay rights activists, the disclosure requirement is an attempt to saddle gay couples with some of the obligations of marriage without providing the full benefits of marriage, such as the right to file joint federal tax returns.

Meanwhile, gay marriage opponents say this is a case of one committee trying to override all of Congress.

Tom McClusky, vice president of Family Research Council Action, the legislative arm of the FRC, said the Defense of Marriage Act is explicit in prohibiting federal entities from equating gay partners with opposite-sex married couples.

None of Congress’ openly gay lawmakers would be affected by the change, Roll Call notes, because none is legally married in his or her state.

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