Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Friday announced that the department will recognize married gay couples in relationship to federal college loan applications.

“We must continue to ensure that every single American is treated equally in the eyes of the law, and this important guidance for students is another step forward in that effort,” Duncan said in a written statement.

The move comes roughly six months after the Supreme Court knocked down a critical provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which blocked the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

The department said that it will recognize a student – and parents – as legally married if the couple wed in one of the 15 states plus the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is permitted, even if the student is applying for a loan to attend a school in one of the states that do not allow gay couples to marry. (A marriage law approved in Illinois takes effect in June.)

“As students fill out their FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid] this coming year, I'm thrilled they'll be able to do so in a way that is more fair and just,” Duncan said.