The Department of Labor announced Friday that a range of federal benefits, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, will be extended nationwide to same-sex married couples, regardless of state laws.
The new Family and Medical Leave Act guidelines are based off a recent ruling deeming the Defense of Marriage act (often abbreviated as “DOMA”) unconstitutional, and were briefly explained in a Department of Labor notice.
On the DOL’s site, a breakdown of the changes is introduced and reads:
“The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. The FMLA also includes certain military family leave provisions… The Department of Labor is publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the definition of spouse under the FMLA in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional.”
Another portion defines “spouse” for the purposes of the extension of the Family and Medical Leave Act to be extended federally (and superseding state laws that prohibit same-sex unions), explaining:
“For purposes of this definition, husband or wife refers to the other person with whom an individual entered into marriage as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State in which the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside of any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and could have been entered into in at least one State.”
The definition continues:
“This definition includes an individual in a same-sex or common law marriage that either (1) was entered into in a State that recognizes such marriages or, (2) if entered into outside of any State, is valid in the place where entered into and could have been entered into in at least one State.”
As the New York Times points out, the Obama administration’s move to update federal recognition of same-sex unions carries significant benefits for gay couples in several states.
While state to state legality of same-sex marriage remains disparate, the updated regulations ensure a basic level of equality to gay Americans regardless of their home state’s individual recognition of their unions.
The changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act pertaining to same-sex unions apply mainly to private sector companies due to the scope and size of the FMLA, but federal agencies are expected to adopt comparable guidelines.