The Decision on Gay Marriage and its ripple effect on other Identities

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Prop 8 measure banning marriage between same-sex couples. One of many useful summaries can be found online; here’s one from the Wall Street Journal.

It’s intriguing to listen how the tax laws, inheritance rights, hospital visitation,  immigration, religious liberties, and even financial aid for college students will be changed. I’m kind of interested in the last three as they overlap with other identities.

The 1917 Immigration and Nationality Act included provisions to exclude mentally or physically defected persons. This had various connotations, particularly since the label of homosexual had recently been coined just 25 years earlier in 1892. An amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965 specifically excluded immigrants “afflicted with … sexual deviation.”

It wasn’t until the 1990 Immigration Act that the provision to exclude homosexual immigrants was removed. By 1994 the US granted its first asylum to a Cuban immigrant due to his homosexuality. It was granted based on his identity not the sexual behavior (since sodomy was still illegal in many states then). There could have been side benefits to this since Castro was still running communist Cuba.

Religious Freedom
Many religious institutions are fighting the HHS mandate to provide abortions to their employees on demand. They will likely resist providing dependent care coverage to LGBT couples. I can only speak in depth about my religion. I can tell you it will be a lost cause for the Catholic Church in the current culture. Let me explain why.

Much like the Supreme Court ruling, there will be technicalities that lead to the undoing of the Church’s resistance. For the plethora of religious non-profits that feed, shelter, and educate millions, they already grant spousal benefits to straight couples whose marriage would neither be valid nor allowed in the Church. Straight couples who were married for a second time when the first one was not annulled according to Church doctrine would not have a real marriage from a religious standpoint. Yet the Church accepts the state definition of marriage; they resisted this but lost that battle too. If they accept the state definition it would be difficult to say the Church could deny the same spousal benefits to other marriages it considers invalid.

Financial Aid
Same-sex marriage may provide LGBT couples the benefit of filing joint tax returns, but now both their incomes will count as a resource for the child going to college. Many children of LGBT couples will lose Federal grants because the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will spike.

For graduate students, their spouse’s income and assets will now be considered in their FAFSA. I know that I consider it already for our institutional need-based scholarships. For state grants, it will seem to be dependent on whether that state recognizes same-sex marriage. Then again if they use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for state grants they would in effect be utilizing the same-sex spouse’s information.

The ED (Department of Education has already decided to use more gender neutral language beginning on the 2014-15 FAFSA and to collect information on both legal parents regardless of gender.

This Supreme Court decision has been very historic but it will surely take years to apply the decision to the countless details of our law, culture, and society. That is, if the ruling sticks.

Warsaw LGBT Pride parade 2013


About Daniel Roddick

Daniel has a B.A. in American History with minors in both Ethnic Studies and Sociology. He also has an M.Ed. in College Administration and Counseling. Daniel has worked in the financial aid industry for over a decade. He has presented all over the country on financial aid issues related to equity, inclusion, and access to education. He is also a writer of poetry, fiction, and this blog, all of which touch on identity.
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