By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 16, 2010 ( – 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, Roll Call (RC) reported Thursday.

While the changes would not directly affect any openly gay congressmen, as none have been legally “married” to a homosexual partner, the regulations could affect any number of senior Congressional staff, who are also required to complete the form, notes the news service.

RC reports that the new rules were briefly posted on both the ethics committee web site and the web site of the Clerk of the House, before being removed after Roll Call's inquiry.

Under the new heading “Same-Sex Marriages,” the draft rules reportedly state: “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.”

Should they be adopted, the new rules would be the first time the U.S. Congress has recognized same-sex “marriage.”  However, the changes have been blasted by both sides of the debate: gay “marriage” activists are upset that the forms convey obligations without all the benefits of the institution, while pro-family advocates have criticized another step by the federal government to undermine the traditional definition of marriage.

“This is yet another example of the unequal treatment created by the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act,” complained Brian Moulton, chief legislative counsel for the gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, according to RC. “Married same-sex couples should be subject to the same obligations, and entitled to the same rights and benefits, as their heterosexual counterparts.”

Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America told (LSN) Friday that the rules are “an example of the arrogance in Congress and the overreach of a government that is too big.”

“These draft rules would violate the Defense of Marriage Act and work to undermine the law and that can't be allowed,” said Wright.

However, Wright said that the move was also “an acknowledgment that homosexual relations carry the potential for corruption and conflicts of interest”: she cited the example of Barney Franks' defense of Freddie and Fannie Mac despite the enormous scandal, a move which seemed inexplicable until it was discovered that Franks' boyfriend was a high-level executive at the latter institution.

Nonetheless, she said, “Ethicists must find other ways to protect the integrity of government than by ignoring the law.”