Same-sex married couples in all 50 states will be covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act under a new rule change proposed by the Department of Labor.
The proposal comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. In that 2013 ruling, the court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act provision that interpreted “marriage” and “spouse” to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law.
Thus, in states where gay marriage is legal, same-sex married couples became eligible to receive the same federal health, tax, Social Security and other benefits that heterosexual couples receive.
The new rule would change the FMLA regulatory definition of “spouse” so that an eligible employee in a legal same-sex marriage will be able to take FMLA leave for his or her spouse or family member regardless of the state in which the employee resides.
Currently, the regulatory definition of “spouse” only applies to same-sex spouses who reside in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. Under the proposed rule, eligibility for FMLA protections would be based on the law of the place where the marriage was entered into, allowing all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless whether the state in which they currently reside recognizes such marriages.
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“The basic promise of the FMLA is that no one should have to choose between succeeding at work and being a loving family caregiver,” said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. “Under the proposed revisions, the FMLA will be applied to all families equally, enabling individuals in same-sex marriages to fully exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities to their families.”
The proposed rule is the latest effort by the Obama administration to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples since last year’s Supreme Court decision, according to the Washington Post.
The Justice Department was expected to issue the findings of its year-long review of how the Windsor decision affects other federal benefits, the Post said. In almost all instances, same-sex married couples will receive the same federal benefits and obligations as their heterosexual counterparts, regardless of where they live.
For example, the Defense Department now offers the same benefits to same-sex and heterosexual couples, and the Health and Human Services Department has published guidance dictating that any insurance companies providing spousal coverage must make the same plan available to same-sex spouses.
The feds encouraged interested parties to review the proposal and submit comments.