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May 28, 2014

UNC System to Offer In-state Tuition to Gay & Lesbian Military Spouses

RALEIGH, N.C. – Equality NC, North Carolina’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization, responded today to news that the University of North Carolina system has decided to follow federal law and grant in-state tuition to same-sex spouses of U.S. military personnel.

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."

The decision was announced by a spokesperson at Fayetteville State University, where, as Equality NC previously reported, the wife of an active-duty Front Bragg soldier was earlier denied in-state tuition. The spokesperson told The Fayetteville Observer on Wednesday that UNC system officials had directed the school to comply with federal law.

“The guidance we have received is that active duty military service members and their spouses, without regard to whether the marriage is between persons of the same or opposite sex, qualify for in-state tuition rates as long as the marriage occurred in a jurisdiction that recognizes the relationship as a valid marriage,” FSU spokesperson Jeff Womble told the Fayetteville Observer.

The news comes a month after as Equality NC filed 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.

Equality NC applauded the University's system's decision to recognize these married couples.

“We commend this move by the UNC system to follow federal law and recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian military families and, as such, grant in-state tuition to military spouses in the state they call home,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC. “As we stated in our amicus brief to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, our gay and lesbian service members put their lives on the line everyday for North Carolina, and it’s shameful that they and their families are ever treated as second-class because of laws like Amendment One. While these brave men and women courageously perform their duties with dignity and honor -- fighting for the freedom for all -- we will continue to stand up for their freedom to marry in North Carolina and beyond."

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