Gay-rights advocates said on Tuesday that changes in the Education Department's student-aid form represented a step forward in equality for same-sex couples.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on Monday that, starting in 2014-15, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid would count the income and assets of potential borrowers' legal parents in the calculation of students' need, regardless of the parents' gender or marital status, if the parents lived together. Under the changes, unmarried opposite-sex couples who live together would be included, for example, as well as same-sex couples.
Shane L. Windmeyer, the founder and executive director of Campus Pride, said that the decision would allow same-sex couples to be "validated" in the financial-aid process and that it showed the Education Department recognizes "there are more families than just heterosexual couples."
Currently, the form, known as the Fafsa, collects financial information from only one parent if the parents are unmarried or are in a same-sex relationship.
"The changes are small, but they speak volumes to the cultural change and progress that the LGBT community has made over time," Mr. Windmeyer said.
Brian Moulton, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said he was happy to see the changes in the form recognize the "reality of the family situation."