Friday, October 14, 2011

Uni Students Stymied by DOMA

One of the results of the odious Defense of Marriage Act is that university students from gay families are not being judged by the same standards as other students when it comes to financial aid applications. DOMA says that the federal government has to pretend that legally married couples are NOT legally married.

This puts university students into a bind. They have to pretend that their married parents are not married when they apply for their financial package, which most students apply for. The New York Times reports this means.

They must choose the legal parent who provides more support, which means that the other parent’s income and assets are often ignored. That can give the impression that the student requires more aid — or less — than one from an identical family headed by heterosexual parents. Applicants with same-sex partners, meanwhile, may not be able to include their spouses or other dependents on the form. 

It gets more bizarre. To comply with DOMA the student has to fill out the form as if the married parents are actually divorced. Consider how strange that is. To comply with DOMA these students have to pretend their married parents are divorced. But, under DOMA how can a same-sex couple be considered divorced if they are never considered married?

The federal government offers financial aid for university students based on need. But DOMA actually prevents them from rationally determining need. The result is that some students received aid who normally wouldn't qualify while other students, who would qualify, are denied help. Whether or not such programs are a good idea aside, it appears that DOMA makes it damn difficult to objectively determine needs in situations like this.

The Times published an article giving such students tip as to how they have to fill out the form so as to comply with federal regulations requiring everyone to pretend their parents are not really married. Here is some of the ways DOMA complicates life:

1. Only the income of one parent is counted when it comes to income and assets. But the second parent does count when it comes to determining household size. However, in states with marriage equality, financial aid forms requires you to include them. So, a student may be deemed eligible for federal aid because the income of the second parent is excluded, but at the state level may be too well-off to received aid because the income is included.

2. Only the parent who earns the most money fills out the financial application. Household size is not always determined by the size of the household unless the parent with the most earning can show they provide most the finances for those children as well. So, maybe the brothers and sisters count, and maybe they don't.

3. If you are a student married to same-sex partner your partner does not  count for household size, but does count if you provide more than half their financial support. However, if you were a student under the age of 24 who was married the federal government considers you independent and parental income is NOT considered. But, if you are student who is married to same-sex partner, then you may not be considered independent and your parent's income does matter.

Trying to make sense out of this is almost impossible. But then, when you have a law that says that one part of government must pretend that legally married individuals are not actually married, you are bound to create confusion. Pretending reality isn't real always causes problems.

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