Two federal agencies announced Friday that they would be expanding the recognition of marriage and families in compliance with the Supreme Court overturning Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has broadened the definition of family for those crossing the border into the United States. “Members of a family residing in one household” can now file a joint customs declaration, including same-sex couples as well as other domestic relationships, including foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards, and other dependents. Thus, families traveling together will no longer have to fill out separate forms. Just two years ago, legally married same-sex couples entering the United States still had to file their customs claims identifying as “single.”
The Department of Education also issued guidance Friday confirming that all legal same-sex marriages will be recognized for federal financial aid purposes. Earlier this year — before DOMA was overturned — the Department had changed the FAFSA form to replace “Mother/Stepmother” and “Father/Stepfather” with “Parent 1” and “Parent 2,” saving the children of such couples from having to lie about the make-up of their family. The new guidance ensures that these marriages will be recognized even if the families reside in states that do not recognize their marriage, and even if the student is attending a university in a state that does not recognize the marriage. As with similar guidance, the recognition does not extend to civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Though same-sex couples increasingly have access to the federal benefits of marriage, recognition is still not guaranteed for all services. For example, a separate law limits the Department of Veterans Administration to only recognizing marriages between one man and one woman. For example, a same-sex couple in Texas will have to pay an extra $50,000 to buy a house because the VA would not approve their loan.