The U.S. Department of Education released new guidance … broadening the use of the terms “marriage” and “spouse” in the federal student-aid programs to include same-sex couples. The changes were made in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June in United States v. Windsor (No. 12-307), which struck down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined those words as referring exclusively to heterosexual unions.
Students’ marital status affects both their eligibility for federal financial aid and how much they receive. The marital status of their parents also affects financial aid when the students are dependent on them. Before the court decision, the Education Department, like all federal agencies, was prohibited from recognizing same-sex marriages.
Under the new guidance, the department will recognize any marriage of a student or parent that is recognized as legal in the jurisdiction where it took place. Same-sex marriages are authorized in more than a dozen states, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group. The policy holds whether or not the marriage is recognized where the student lives or attends college. <Read more.>