Crosby Burns is out with a new report examining how the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and various state laws affect LGBT students applying for financial aid at colleges and universities:
How does this happen? Well, in addition to the federal government, nearly all financial aid providers rely on the federal government’s application for financial aid to determine a student’s eligibility for financial assistance. Due to federal and state laws, however, this application cannot fully recognize families headed by a same-sex couple and often renders them invisible. The application may discriminate against children with same-sex parents by discounting one or both parents as a part of that child’s application. Gay applicants themselves may not be able to include their spouses, children, or other dependents as part of their application. And homeless applicants who identify as gay or transgender also face unique obstacles in obtaining financial aid.
Excluding one parent’s earnings may at times demonstrate greater financial need by reducing the total household income. But it could also hurt the applicant by artificially lowering the household size. Burns lays out the following four recommendations for equalizing the application process and ensuring that “taxpayer funds and private dollars are being distributed based on need, not on arbitrary characteristics such as sexual orientation and gender identity”:
1) Congress should swiftly repeal DOMA. Should lawmakers repeal this act, the FAFSA would no longer be required to treat families with same-sex parents differently than opposite-sex families.
2) Federal and state lawmakers should enact pro-gay and transgender legislation so that all families are legally recognized, regardless of parents’ gender. Combined with DOMA repeal, full family recognition would allow the FAFSA to consider both same-sex parents’ income during the financial aid process
3) The department should replace “father/stepfather” and “mother/stepmother” with “parent/stepparent 1” and “parent/stepparent 2.”
4) The Department of Education should issue guidelines and training materials to financial aid administrators that outline the failure of the FAFSA to fully recognize families headed by a same-sex couple.
Read the full report here.