Metro Weekly

Labor Department extends family and medical leave rights to same-sex couples

Thomas Perez - Credit: Ken Cedeno/Labor Department
Thomas Perez – Credit: Ken Cedeno/Labor Department

The Labor Department will issue a final rule change to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) later this week recognizing legally married same-sex couples living in states that prohibit marriage equality.

The Monday announcement is yet another repercussion of the Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision in Windsor, striking down the federal government’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“The basic promise of the FMLA is that no one should have to choose between the job and income they need, and caring for a loved one,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in a statement. “With our action today, we extend that promise so that no matter who you love, you will receive the same rights and protections as everyone else. All eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages, regardless of where they live, can now deal with a serious medical and family situation like all families — without the threat of job loss.”

FMLA was enacted in 1993 and entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons without fear of losing their job. The new rule, which is expected to be issued by the Labor Department on Feb. 25, updates the definition of “spouse” under FMLA to include spouses of the same-sex. Moreover, it extends the “place of celebration” rule in order to base eligibility for federal FMLA projections on the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage was entered into, not the state where the married couple currently lives. The final rule will take effect on March 27.

“No legally married same-sex couple should be denied their federal family leave rights simply because they happen to live in a state that disrespects their marriage,” said David Stacy,  Government Affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement. “Until the Supreme Court settles the issue of full nationwide marriage equality this summer, fairness and equality – and the Supreme Court’s decision in the Windsor case – demanded this important change. We applaud the Obama Administration for continuing to ensure all legally married couples have access to the same federal rights, protections, and privileges that come with marriage wherever possible.”

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