The Department of Education will recognize same-sex marriages for federal student aid programs, it announced on Friday.
The department’s decision comes nearly six months after the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling overturning a core principle of the Defense of Marriage Act, and will allow same-sex married couples and their children to be treated like heterosexual families.
“We must continue to ensure that every single American is treated equally in the eyes of the law, and this important guidance for students is another step forward in that effort,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “As students fill out their FAFSA this coming year, I'm thrilled they'll be able to do so in a way that is more fair and just.”
Before the decision, students in same-sex marriages would have been considered dependent, unlike their counterparts married to members of the opposite sex. That would have had an impact on the student loans available to them.
The change will apply to all same-sex couples married in a state that recognizes their marriages, regardless of where they currently live or go to school.
Since the June Supreme Court opinion, decided on a 5-4 vote, federal agencies throughout the government have begun work to reinterpret the more than 1,000 federal laws that take a person’s marital status into account. The court decision affected spouses of members of the military, people receiving Social Security and immigrants, among many more.