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Winslow presses FEC on contributions from same-sex spouses

Senate hopeful Daniel B. Winslow, working to differentiate himself from his two Republican primary rivals, filed a request with the Federal Election Commission on Friday seeking guidance on how to categorize contributions from legally married same-sex couples.

Under current FEC guidelines, each person can contribute a maximum of $2,600 of their own money to a candidate for the primary election. But a married couple, drawing on a joint account, can contribute up to $5,200 for the primary, regardless of whether it’s earned by one or both spouses.

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“The FEC said a long time ago, if the check comes on a joint account from spouses, we’re not going to look to see where it’s coming from one of them or both of them -- we’re going to presume it’s shared between them,” explained Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman.

Winslow, through attorneys working on his behalf, asked the Commission to determine whether that rule applies to same-sex couples too. The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines a spouse as being only of the opposite sex. But Winslow, citing Massachusetts state law, encouraged the FEC to allow legally married same-sex couples to be recognized the same as opposite-sex couples for the purpose of their joint contributions.

“What’s a spouse?” said Craig Engle, one of the attorneys who wrote to the FEC on behalf of Winslow. “Massachusetts law says one thing and DOMA says another. The FEC is going to have to pick.”

Winslow, a state Representative and former judge, faces off against former Navy pilot Gabriel E. Gomez and former U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan in the April 30 GOP Senate primary.

While Winslow’s move could have short-term political ramifications, it may also have a long-term impact on FEC rules.

This “is a question the FEC has never faced before,” said Potter.

Joshua Miller can be reached at Joshua.Miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jm_bos.
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