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HHS Extends Head Start Participation to Same-Sex Marriage Families

8:15 AM, Jun 5, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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The administration for children and families, part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), issued guidance in a memo on Wednesday regarding application of the federal government's policy on same-sex spouses/marriages to all Head Start and Early Head Start programs.  

This guidance is intended to implement a post-Windsor policy of treating same-sex marriages on the same terms as opposite-sex marriages to the greatest extent reasonably possible. Accordingly, for purposes of determining eligibility to participate in Head Start and Early Head Start programs, the income of same-sex spouses shall be considered part of a family’s income and the same-sex spouse shall be included in the number of people in a household. HHS recognizes marriages between individuals of the same sex who are lawfully married under the law of a state, territory, or foreign jurisdiction, as long as it would be recognized in at least one state, regardless of the state in which the couple resides.

HHS instructed all grantees and delegate agencies in the memo to ensure that "[f]amily support and parent engagement activities should be inclusive and supportive of single, coupled, and married LGBT parents":

Consistent with the policy of maximizing the federal recognition of same-sex spouses/marriages, the term "family" as used to determine the eligibility of a child to participate in a Head Start or Early Head Start program shall include a same-sex spouse. HHS recognizes marriages between individuals of the same sex who are lawfully married under the law of a state, territory, or foreign jurisdiction, as long as it would be recognized by at least one state, regardless of the state in which the couple resides. 

Head Start joins the military, the IRS, and other federal agencies in applying the new policy toward same-sex marriages implemented by the Obama administration following the Supreme Court's United States v. Windsor decision last June.

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