Earlier this year, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented agencies from recognizing same-sex marriages. With the law now amended, the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages and give them the same rights as heterosexual couples would have. And now, those changes will be reflected in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Announced on Friday, December 16th, the U.S. Department of Education will now recognize same-sex marriages when distributing federal-level financial aid, regardless of the state where the married couple resides.
What does this mean for students? It affects both children of and spouses in same-sex marriages. The new FAFSA, which takes effect immediately, will have gender-neutral descriptions of parents and will take into account information of both parents, regardless of gender.
Because of these changes, some students’ (or their parents’) marital status will change, affecting the amount of aid received. In some cases, aid may increase (because the household size will go up), but in others the aid may decrease (as it accounts for additional income). Students in same-sex marriages would have had to select “single” as their marital status prior to these changes (regardless of whether it had been legalized in their state of residence). Today, that has changed.
“We must continue to ensure that every single American is treated equally in the eyes of the law, and this important guidance for students is another step forward in that effort,” said Arne Duncan, Education Secretary. “As students fill out their FAFSA this coming year, I’m thrilled they’ll be able to do so in a way that is more fair and just.”
This move by the U.S. Department of Education goes hand-in-hand with the national movement to make schools and campuses more accepting of the LGBT community and eliminate the discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.