The U.S. Department of Education announced that the federal government now recognizes same-sex marriage when processing financial aid applications for students. This announcement is related to a Supreme Court decision that marks a positive signpost for same-sex households.
Since April, the Department of Education started to work on expanding the inclusiveness of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to same-sex marriages. The changes, set to apply beginning in 2014-2015 FAFSA cycle, is meant to “get a more accurate picture of an applicant’s financial situation.”
The changes on the application will be the option to choose the legal parents’ marriage status as “unmarried and both parents living together” and will also allow applicants to identify their parents’ relational designations (father/mother/step parent), which would indicate the household as being either opposite- or same-sex.
“We must continue to ensure that every single American is treated equally in the eyes of the law, and this important guidance for students in another step forward in that effort,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “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 change is an extension of the Supreme Court’s decision that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Section 3 barred federal agencies from recognizing same-sex marriage as it interpreted “marriage” being “only a legal union between one man and one woman.” But ever since the Supreme Court’s decision in United Stated v. Windsor, that section is null and void.
Windsor changed the key provision in DOMA as it blatantly discriminated against same-sex couples “for the purposes of determining federal benefits and protections.” Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer were a legally married lesbian couple when Spyer passed away.
However, because of Section 3, Windsor was not entitled to any inheritance or benefits after her spouse’s death. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Windsor filed suit alleging that “DOMA violates the Equal Protection principles of the U.S. Constitution because it recognizes existing marriages of heterosexual couples, but not of same sex couples.”
After three months of arguments, the Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that “Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional because it violates the principles of due process and equal protection.” This ruling set a new precedent in sexual equality and will surely open more doors for the LGBT community. In fact, the case carried such resonance, Edie Windsor became a Time Magazine “Person of the Year” runner up.
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.