A small public university has begun a scholarship programme for gay students whose parents refuse to provide them with financial support, writes John Marcus.
The aid plan was begun at the instigation of two faculty members at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, who said a number of students there had been cut off by their families after declaring their sexuality.
It is being underwritten in large part by contributions from a lesbian folk singer, Lucie Blue Tremblay.
The scholarships will total $500 a year, about a fifth of the cost of tuition at the school. They will be named for Tremblay and Barney Frank, an openly gay congressman whose district includes the Bridgewater State College campus.
Some students have been forced to withdraw from the university for financial reasons after declaring their sexuality, said Susan Holton, who chairs the gay student advocacy group at Bridgewater.
"When I was 20 years old, I came out to my family and was cut off by them," one anonymous gay student said in a statement supplied by the college. "I was in the last year of my undergraduate degree, and I was devastated.
"I managed, I'm not sure how, and I did graduate, with my life and my family relationships changed for ever. I applaud your outreach with this programme."
Conservative critics responded that the scholarship was unfairly seeking to supersede parental rights.
Some other universities in the United States provide additional financial aid for students who declare themselves "emancipated minors", meaning they can no longer depend on their parents for support. But the Bridgewater programme is the first in the country to single out gay students.