Same-Sex Married Couples Now Eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act

Family Equality Council® today praised the U.S. Department of Labor for issuing a proposed rule that makes workers eligible for leave to take care of a same-sex spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), whether or not they live in states that recognise their marriages.

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This “place of celebration” rule will make it easier for LGBTQ families to take care of each other in times of sickness or other situations that require one spouse to take time off of work, without the fear of losing a job. The rule is part of an overall effort to bring federal policies in line with the decision in United States v. Windsor, which overturned the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” making it possible for married same-sex couples to obtain federal marriage benefits and protections.

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As part of this effort, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) also formalised its intention to revise the definition of spouse in its FMLA regulations applicable to the federal workforce. “The new definition permits Federal employees with same-sex spouses to use FMLA leave in the same manner as Federal employees with opposite-sex spouses.”

“We welcome these crucial federal policy changes affecting the millions of LGBTQ families we serve,” said Family Equality Council Executive Director, Gabriel Blau. “The Family Medical Leave Act is a vital resource for all families that allows them to take care of loved ones in times of need. Now all LGBTQ people in the workforce will finally be eligible to participate. This is a huge victory.”

Family Equality Council also commends the incredible work of the Department of Justice on the conclusion of its year-long review of how federal benefits for married same-sex couples are impacted by the Windsor decision. In most cases moving forward, married same-sex couples will have access to federal benefits regardless of where they live, with some important exceptions. Because of statutory restrictions, certain benefits provided by the Social Security Administration and the Veterans’ Administration are dependent upon where a beneficiary lives, or their “place of domicile.” These restrictions deny full and equal access to critical benefits and cause significant hardships for married same-sex couples who live in states that refuse to recognise their marriages Family Equality Council, along with our partners at other organizations, is working to educate Congress about the need to pass legislation that would extend full and equal access to federal benefits for all same-sex couples regardless of where they happen to reside.

Emily Hecht-McGowan, Family Equality Council’s Director of Public Policy added, “The Department of Justice has done a tremendous job of overseeing the implementation of the Windsor decision across all federal agencies over the past year. LGBTQ parents and their families are better off for the work that has been done, however, more work remains. We must now push Congress to finish the job of ensuring full, equal and unfettered access to ALL federal benefits for ALL American families.”

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