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Same-sex marriage now recognized in federal student aid application process

The US Department of Education [official website] announced [press release] on Friday that for the purposes of applying for and receiving federal student financial aid, the federal government will now recognize all legal same-sex marriages [JURIST backgrounder]. In response to the US Supreme Court's ruling in US v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report], the Department of Education explained that any legal marriage that is recognized by the jurisdiction in which the marriage was celebrated will be recognized for the purposes of student financial assistance programs without regard to whether the marriage is between same-sex or opposite-sex persons. As opposed to previous practice, where a student married to a same-sex spouse would have had to register as a dependent, this student may now be considered independent for financial aid purposes like all other opposite-sex spouses. This result will take effect regardless of whether the student is applying for aid at an educational institution within a jurisdiction that does not allow or recognize same-sex marriage, as long as he or she is legally married within a jurisdiction that does. Such a filing will be permitted for both the student and the parents of a dependent student.

Other federal agencies have taken similar steps to ensure the inclusion of same-sex couples in administrative processes. On the same day as the Department of Education's announcement, the US Customs and Border Protection said [Time report] it will expand the definition of "members of a family residing in a household" to include same-sex couples and other domestic relationships so as to facilitate the declarations process. While the Windsor decision did not create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, it does entitle couples in lawfully recognized same-sex marriages to certain federal benefits. In September the US Department of Labor [official website] issued guidance explaining [JURIST report] that all legally married same-sex spouses in the US can participate in employee benefit plans overseen by the Employee Benefits Security Administration [official website]. Earlier in September the US Department of Justice [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it will no longer enforce a federal law that denies same-sex spouses veterans benefits. In August the US Treasury Department [official website] announced that it, along with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website], will recognize marriages [JURIST report] of all same-sex couples for federal tax purposes.

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