State Denies In-State Tuition to Same-Sex Spouse of a Servicemember

The effects of federal recognition of same-sex marriages across the full spectrum of federal benefits, including for those domiciled in states that ban the recognition of their marriages for state purposes, are bubbling up on an almost daily basis.  According to the Dallas Voice, the University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) has denied an in-state tuition rate to the same-sex spouse of an active duty servicemember who is stationed in Texas, which bans same-sex marriages in its state constitution.  The military recognizes the marriages of servicemembers to same-sex spouses for all purposes and wherever the servicemember is stationed.  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.  The Higher Education Opportunity Act, 20 U.S.C. 1015d, provides:

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 chapter, 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.

The president of the American Military Partners Association says that UTSA better get with the program or risk losing federal funds.  “Federal law specifically requires that universities grant in-state tuition rates to the spouses of active duty service members,” he told the Voice. “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.”