Ethics rules extended to same-sex spouses of federal employees

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) on Tuesday said the same-sex spouses of federal employees are now subject to the same ethics rules as other married couples.

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban on federal benefits for gay couples. But with those benefits come reporting and conflict of interest rules that previously did not apply.

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“Going forward, OGE and agency ethics offices throughout the Executive Branch will collect information regarding the financial interests of the same-sex spouse of a federal employee who is subject to public or confidential filing requirements,” according to an advisory sent to agencies.

The new policy is effective immediately and applies to all federal workers, regardless of where they live.

The OGE is sending suggested guidance for employees to agencies, laying out the various ways they would be affected by the policy shift.

Any federal workers required to file a disclosure report, either publicly or confidentially, must include their spouse’s finances on their next report, according to the memorandum.

“In addition, your spouse’s financial interests are treated as if they were your own under the conflict of interest laws,” the guidance reads. “For example, you may not work on any assignments that will affect your spouse’s financial interests.”

The action is part of a massive overhaul of federal regulations triggered by the Supreme Court ruling.

“Congress has enacted discrete statutes to regulate the meaning of marriage in order to further federal policy,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, which struck down major provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“But DOMA, with a directive applicable to over 1,000 federal statutes and the whole realm of federal regulations, has a far greater reach,” Kennedy wrote.

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