Sen. John Kerry is urging the federal government to remove barriers that discriminate against incoming college students who are transgender or the children of same-sex parents and looking for financial aid.
The Massachusetts Democrat is calling for policy reform to help transgender students who encounter complications with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA, because of name and gender identity mismatches between their official documentation and application information. He called roadblocks that transgender students face to be "disturbing" and added, "We should encourage all students to pursue a higher education, and turning them away because the bureaucracy can’t 'compute' their gender is just wrong."
He also asked for equal treatment for students with same-sex parents, who might be shortchanged when the federal government considers how much aid for which they qualify. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing legal marriages or civil unions of gay and lesbian couples, the government will consider the assets and income of only one parent of a student, even if that student has two same-sex parents.
Suggestions for policy changes were sent to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Wednesday.
"I request that you consider ways to clarify the FAFSA for applicants who have same-sex parents and for students who are gay and transgender," Kerry wrote. "I also ask that you consider the whole of the financial aid process — beginning to end — from the perspective of these applicants and make any possible modifications that would improve the application and reward procedures for all applicants."