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Apr 17, 2014

NC Gay Military Spouse Denied In-State Tuition Despite Federal Law

RALEIGH, N.C. – Equality NC, North Carolina’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization, responded today to news from the American Military Partners Association that officials at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina have decided to deny in-state tuition to the same-gender spouses of active duty service members despite federal law that requires them to do so. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (H.R. 4137), section 135, which was signed into law on August 14, 2008, 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." Fayetteville State is citing state law in order to ignore this federal statute.

The news comes the same day as Equality NC files an amicus brief raising North Carolina gay and lesbian military voices to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Bostic v. Schaefer. Bostic is a case which could decide the issue of marriage equality in several Southern states, including North Carolina.

“It is no small irony that on the same day that Equality NC is trying to elevate the discourse around the dire need for full equality for military families, same-gender spouses of our brave service men and women are being treated this way by Fayetteville State University," said Chris Sgro, executive director. "This is yet another reason why marriage equality is so important to the everyday lives of North Carolinians, including the countless gay and lesbian military families who call our state home. While other universities in non-marriage equality states have complied with federal law and granted in-state tuition to same-gender military spouses, it is very disappointing that these two institutions are once again treating our brave military families as second-class citizens.”

"I wouldn't wish this situation on anyone," said Jasmine Pollard, wife of an active-duty Soldier stationed at Fort Bragg who was told she was not eligible for in-state tuition by a counselor at Fayetteville State University because she is gay. "It makes me feel like our commitment and service to our nation is not important to Fayetteville State University just because of our sexual orientation."

Despite a claim on the Fayetteville State University website that says, "For over thirty years, the faculty and staff of Fayetteville State University have embraced our military service members and their families," as the American Military Partners Association put it in a statement today, "this situation seems to indicate that only some military families are truly embraced by the university."

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