Texas Denies In-state Tuition to Military Spouses, but VA (and VCU) Follow Federal Mandate
In violation with federal law The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has chosen to deny an in-state tuition rate to the same-sex spouse of active duty service member stationed in Texas.
The American Military Partner Association (AMPA) is the nation’s leading resource and support network for LGBT military spouses and their families was displeased with the news.
AMPA released a press release on the conflict stating the decision violates the Higher Education Opportunity Act which was “signed into law on August 14, 2008. Section 135 requires that, ‘In the case of a member of the armed forces who is on active duty for a period of more than 30 days and whose domicile or permanent duty station is in a State that receives assistance under this Act, such State shall not charge such member (or the spouse or dependent child of such member) tuition for attendance at a public institution of higher education in the State at a rate that is greater than the rate charged for residents of the State’.”
Stephen Peters is president of AMPA who served in the military and is a military spouse himself.
“Federal law specifically requires that universities grant in-state tuition rates to the spouses of active duty service members,” said Peters. “We urge the federal government to immediately withhold any federal funds that UTSA is receiving through the Higher Education Opportunity Act until they are in compliance with the requirements of the act.”
Though Texas is a state which bans same-sex marriages because of their state constitution, federal law requires all military marriages be equally treated. Peters said Texas is attempting to use their constitution as a way to prevent the same benefits to same-sex couples although other states with similar bans have been providing in-state tuition to same-sex spouses of military personnel as law requires them to.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June, Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional in United States v. Windsor. Under the decision reached, disallowing federal benefits to married same-sex couples violated the Fifth Amendment and interfered with states’ power to define marriage. The Department of Defense (DOD) was among the federal government departments that changed their policies to extend their benefits policies to same-sex couples.
On Aug. 14, DOD announced “its plan to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and Department of Defense civilian employees,” the American Forces Press Service reported. DOD made benefits available for military spouses and families of same-sex marriages on Sept. 3 given they provide a proper marriage certificate.
“The DOD remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs,” American Forces Press Service said.
Dale Carpenter is a legal commentator and Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law at the University of Minnesota Law School. Carpenter specializes on constitutional law, speaks frequently on same-sex marriage and contributes writing to multiple sites. On the blog, “The Volokh Conspiracy,” Carpenter wrote about the conflict.
“Texas doesn’t have to recognize same-sex marriages for state purposes, so ordinarily its public universities would not have to provide any benefits based on such marriages… But in this case, federal law provides that federal aid is available to schools only if they grant spouses of military members the favorable rates.”
Although Virginia is another state which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, local universities haven’t had an issue providing military spouses of same-sex marriages with in-state tuition.
Anne Buckley serves as senior director of University Public Affairs of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and the VCU Medical Center who says the university complies with the law on this matter and bases tuition on your residency as an individual.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re married, gay, straight – it doesn’t matter, it’s your residency based upon your individual residence,” Buckley said about the issue.
The admissions and military student services offices at VCU were unsure on whether or not military spouses in same-sex couples received the same benefits granted to other military families. Though someone within the military student services said if one provided documentation of military orders to the state a same-sex spouse would receive in-state tuition, the admissions department wasn’t informed on how to handle the issue and transferred the question to the military student services office who gave an unclear answer the second time.
“Military Student Services works with veterans, active service members, spouses and dependents to meet each student’s unique needs,” the VCU’s department states on their site. “We are here to help you with receiving benefits, scheduling classes, manage deployment and short-term training issues and more.”
The department, which specializes in military affairs at the university, explained they abide by the Virginia Domicile Guidelines in order to make residency requirements. The advice they offered when asking whether a spouse of a service member in a same-sex marriage would qualify was to study and research the document which would provide the necessary information.
The Domicile Guidelines reads, “Military personnel, their spouse, and dependent children are entitled to demonstrate eligibility for in-state tuition rates in the same manner as nonmilitary personnel, except that the one-year domicile period shall be waived for active duty military personnel (and their dependent spouse or children) who voluntarily elect Virginia as their permanent residence for domiciliary purposes.” There is no reference to sexual orientation in the document.
“This has nothing to do with the state’s recognition of a spouse; this is all the federal governments’ recognition of a spouse and the federal government has made it very clear that military spouses are spouses and this law requires them to give them in-state tuition,” Peters said.
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- National LGBTQ campaign group backs transgender candidate in race against author of Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban
- Diversity Richmond addresses Chesterfield Police community meeting
- Plunge into the depths of high school female relationships in TheatreLAB’s production of ‘Dry Land’
- Brian Burns returns with new book detailing RVA’s history of income inequality, homosexuality and Maymont owner’s use of convict labor
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