The announcement came the same day that President Obama vetted LGBT activists at the White House for his second annual Pride reception.
The FMLA requires companies with 50 or more employees to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for an employee at the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a relative with a serious health condition, or due to the employee’s own health condition. The changes will allow gay employees to care for their partner’s children.
A press release from the Department of Labor notes that the expanded interpretation of “son and daughter” will benefit many types of families, including a grandmother caring for a sick grandchild or an uncle caring for the children of a sibling who is in the military.
But the press release also makes no secret that the changes, which “ensure that an employee who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship,” will benefit gay families, particularly where one partner is not able to adopt the children that the couple is raising together.
“This action is a victory for many non-traditional families, including families in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community, who often in the past have been denied leave to care for their loved ones,” states the press release, which also notes that “an employee who intends to share in the parenting of a child with his or her same sex partner will be able to exercise the right to FMLA leave to bond with that child.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay political group, praised the change, while noting that gay employees remain unable to use FMLA to care for their sick partners.
“Today’s announcement, which does not extend FMLA leave to the same-sex partners and spouses of employees, also highlights the limitations of what fair-minded agencies can do,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said. “The Defense of Marriage Act continues to treat our families as second-class, and to achieve true equality for LGBT people, it must be repealed.”
Top photo: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis says a policy clarification issued this week by her department ensures that children of ‘all families, including LGBT families,’ are covered by the Family & Medical Leave Act. (courtesy Dept. of Labor)