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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Expanded Medical Leave Benefits to Include Gay & Lesbian Employees

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is expected to announce today a reinterpretation of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act that will allow gay & lesbian employees working for large employers (including the federal government) to take the leave necessary to care for their domestic partners, if that domestic partner contracts a serious health condition, or becomes an adoptive or foster parent.

According to the Associated Press, this new interpretation of the existing law will also apply to other nontraditional families such as co-habitating heterosexual couples and grandparents with guardianship of their grandchildren.

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides workers with 12 weeks of unpaid leave for situations like the birth or adoption of a child; care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent; or the employees' own serious health condition.

Due to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman), gay & lesbian workers had been ineligible for leave under FMLA. This announcement will allow gay & lesbians the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Critics say the Obama administration is going too far. “They're trying to redefine marriage and family by these arbitrary policies with no debate by congress, no public discussion about it," says Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family.

Gay rights activists, who strongly supported President Obama’s campaign, wish the administration would go further. “It's not repealing the defense of marriage act, it's a small step but it's an important one," says Brian Moulton of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

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