Same-Sex Parents Qualify for Benefits Under FMLA


The Labor Department issued a ruling today allowing employees in a same-sex relationship to care for the child of his or her partner under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act.  The new ruling is based on language used in the 1993 law, and cites that “a biological or legal relationship is not necessary” for someone to be in loco parentis with a child.

Good news!  Yet the FMLA still does not allow same-sex couples to care for one another, because the U.S. government does not recognize same-sex partnerships.  Individual employers are free to provide benefits to homosexual couples, but they are not required to under federal law.

How are the children of same-sex partners supposed to do well if their parents aren’t treated well?  How can any parent be expected to care for a child if they themselves are not cared for?  There’s some important logic missing in this ruling.

The New York Times reports that Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), “has introduced a bill that would amend the 1993 law to allow workers to take leave to care for a domestic partner or a same-sex spouse.  The bill would expand the definition of spouse to include a same-sex spouse as determined under applicable state law.”  But what good does that do if state laws don’t acknowledge same-sex spouses?  There are only 9 states in this country that allow gay couples in a marriage, civil union or domestic partnership the same rights and benefits married couples receive.  New York State does not allow gay marriage or civil unions, however, the state will recognize a marriage or civil union entered into elsewhere in the U.S.

Despite any disappointment, this ruling is still a big step for the Obama administration, and just one of many it has taken to reach out the the gay community.  “In April, Mr. Obama announced plans to grant hospital visiting rights to same-sex partners, and the Justice Department concluded that the Violence Against Women Act protects same-sex partners,” according to the Times.  The President will meet with LGBT activists at the White House tonight in honor of Pride month.  Maybe he’ll have more good news to share that’ll make us all proud.

Photo: nerdcoregirl via Flickr