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Idea of the Day: Repealing DOMA Allows FAFSA to Recognize Families with Same-Sex Parents

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The higher education financial aid system discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation by not fully recognizing families headed by two fathers or two mothers. In doing so, the system directs government-funded financial aid based on attributes that have absolutely nothing to do with an applicant’s actual need for financial aid. Moreover, it will likely distort the amount of state and private aid applicants are likely to receive, since both rely on the FAFSA in determining an applicant’s financial need.

In some instances, the failure to fully recognize families headed by same-sex couples severely disadvantages applicants in these families from accessing equitable financial aid. In other instances, applicants from same-sex families will receive more aid than they would have had they come from opposite-sex families. And for all families headed by same-sex couples, accurately filling out an application for financial aid can be such a frustrating and complex task that they do so incorrectly, or maybe not at all.

Ensuring financial aid is distributed equitably in the interests of aid recipients and taxpayers is one of many reasons 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.

Following repeal, the Department of Education would then be able to issue regulations and subregulatory guidance that allow the FAFSA and financial aid institutions to fully recognize families headed by same-sex couples, including recognition of dependent children and same-sex spouses. This would eliminate most if not all of the income and household size issues that currently skew the applicants’ need for financial aid. Members in both chambers of Congress have introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, which would effectively repeal DOMA, and Congress should expeditiously pass this law.

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Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or

Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, Progress 2050, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues,, faith)
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Print: Beatriz Lopez (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.741.6255 or

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Rafael Medina
202.478.5313 or

TV: Rachel Rosen
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Radio: Sally Tucker
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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here