On Sept. 27, the University of Texas at San Antonio rejected an in-state tuition waiver for the same-sex spouse of an active duty service member.

The decision was quickly changed after the recipient made allegations that denial was the result of gender discrimination. The student, who is working on a doctorate in medical anthropology at UTSA, wants to remain anonymous out of concern for how the publicity surrounding the case would affect her and her partner, who is stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

UTSA spokesman Joe Izbrand said in an email to the San Antonio Express-News, “After carefully reviewing this matter, it has been determined that the student will be charged resident tuition.”

Izbrand responded to the allegations of discrimination by saying, “Our university is enriched through inclusiveness and diversity.”

The Texas Constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman; however, the university’s refusal to grant the student in-state tuition conflicts with the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act (H.R. 4137), section 135, which was signed into law on August 14, 2008, and protects same-sex couples following the Defense of Marriage Act being ruled unconstitutional.

This law 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.”

This means, according to federal law, that universities are obligated to grant in-state tuition to spouses of active military personnel based on the university’s interpretation of who constitutes a spouse.

Just hours after the San Antonio Expres-News broke the story, UTSA announced that it would provide in-state tuition to the spouse of the army personnel in the form of a $1,000 merit-based graduate anthropology scholarship.

However, the school has not changed the policy towards same-sex partners due to the conflicting federal and state definition of “spouse.”

“I get to be excited that I don’t have a financial burden, but the policy hasn’t changed,” the student said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News. “If anybody else applies in the future, they are not necessarily protected.”

Controversy over the UTSA in-state policy prompted members of the GLBTQ club at UTSA to find ways to address this problem within the school.

Michelle Jackson, the political co-chair of the GLBTQ club drafted a letter to the dean and associate deans of the UTSA graduate school, calling for them to resolve the issue with the policy. The letter was also supported by the National Organization for Women at UTSA and the Young Democrats of UTSA.

As of press time they are still waiting for a reply from the deans.

Jackson says that the GLBTQ student organization is also looking into contacting the administration of the entire UT System since the policy might actually be one bigger than just UTSA.

“I believe that the policy should be changed to include those in same-sex marriages, but I do understand this is a complicated issue because state law has to change, since it doesn’t match federal law. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I do hope this eventually leads to some major policy/legal changes throughout the state.”

In a public statement, Izbrand said the university’s course of action will ultimately be determined by the UT System, but that higher educational institutions that receive federal funding have to eventually resolve the conflict between the federal mandate and the state law.

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