By BTL Staff
In April, as part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to treat all families fairly and equally, the U.S. Department of Education announced that beginning with the 2014-2015 federal student aid form, the Department will – for the first time – collect income and other information from a dependent student’s legal parents regardless of the parents’ marital status or gender, if those parents live together. The 2014-2015 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, will use terms like “Parent 1 (father/mother/stepparent)” and “Parent 2 (father/mother/stepparent)” instead of gender-specific terms like “mother” and “father.”
“All students should be able to apply for federal student aid within a system that incorporates their unique family dynamics,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These changes will allow us to more precisely calculate federal student aid eligibility based on what a student’s whole family is able to contribute and ensure taxpayer dollars are better targeted toward those students who have the most need, as well as provide an inclusive form that reflects the diversity of American families.”
Equality Matters http://equalitymatters.org/blog/201305100002 reported last week, that during a May 10 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy criticized the change, warning that “the P.C. police are loose in the federal government.”
As the Fox & Friends crew struggled to think of reasons to criticize the language change – like co-host Gretchen Carlson’s concern that parents will “start fighting over which one is 1 and which one is 2” – Fox displayed several headlines suggesting that the new language somehow punished heterosexual parents:
“Happy Mother’s Day (Not)! Baltimore Schools Ban Words ‘Mother, Father'” was just one example. Think Progress http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/04/29/1938221/fafsa-form-will-now-recognize-college-students-same-sex-parents/?mobile=nc reported that, “This change mimics similar changes made at other federal agencies. In 2011, for example, the State Department initiated reforms to give passport forms a more gender-neutral parental designation. Doing so required minimal changes to federal forms while significantly enhancing the accuracy, fairness, effectiveness, and efficiency of government operations.”
Think Progress pointed out that the change first guarantees that all families are treated fairly and equally in the higher education financial aid process and second the change advances the efficiency and effectiveness of delivering aid based on need, and not allowing irrelevant factors such as sexual orientation to factor into the application process.
While anti-gay adoption laws and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) continue to present a number of problems for students with same-sex parents, this announcement is seen as a big step forward for LGBT equality in higher education.