Roll Call is reporting that the House ethics committee “has drafted rules that for the first time would define gay married couples as ‘spouses’” in the financial disclosure forms Congressional members and their staffers file each year. While the change would not affect any openly gay members — none have married — “it is possible that there are gay married couples among the thousands of senior Congressional staff who are required to complete the form each year.”
“Activists on both sides of the gay marriage issue said the reporting requirements, if adopted, would mark the first time Congress has recognized a gay partner as a spouse,” the paper notes.
The draft rules were posted this week, but were taken down after “Roll Call inquired about them.” Here, however is an HTML version of the archived copy, page 12:
While the new rules, if finalized, could mark an important step forward towards equality, one gay rights advocate told Roll Call that “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.” “This is yet another example of the unequal treatment created by the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. Married same-sex couples should be subject to the same obligations, and entitled to the same rights and benefits, as their heterosexual counterparts,” Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel for the gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said.
The new rules may have been drafted in response to President Obama’s June 2009 memorandum calling on department and agency heads to begin internal reviews to determine if they can offer additional benefits to gay and lesbian employees.