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New Rule Would Extend FMLA Benefits to All Same-Sex Couples

New Rule Would Extend FMLA Benefits to All Same-Sex Couples

June 20, 2014 — The Department of Labor on Friday will issue a proposed rule that would extend Family and Medical Leave Act (PL 103-3) benefits to all same-sex married couples, regardless of whether they live in states that legally recognize same-sex marriage, the Los Angeles Times reports (Phelps, Los Angeles Times, 6/19).

Under FMLA, which was enacted in 1993, eligible employees are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave annually for a serious illness or to care for a new child or sick family member.

The Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act last year meant that married same-sex couples in places where same-sex marriage is legal became eligible for many spousal benefits they had been denied (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/12/13).

However, same-sex married couples had only been eligible for full FMLA benefits if they lived in states where same-sex marriage is legal (Felsenthal, Reuters, 6/20). DOL in 2010 clarified that parents in same-sex relationships can take time off under FMLA to care for a child, even if they are not biologically related (Women's Health Policy report, 8/12/13).

DOL's proposed change would impact thousands of U.S. families, according to the Washington Post.

The rule would not apply to public-sector employees, but the Office of Personal Management is expected to issue similar guidance Friday to extend the benefits to federal workers, the Post reports.

Department of Justice Review

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice on Friday is expected to announce the results of a yearlong review of how the Supreme Court's decision to strike down DOMA affected federal benefits (Eilperin, Washington Post, 6/20).

DOJ attorneys consulted with federal agencies' general counsels to assess whether legal barriers remain to providing benefits to same-sex married couples (McCain Nelson/Bravin, Wall Street Journal, 6/20).

They found that same-sex married couples are eligible for the same benefits as heterosexual married couples in nearly all instances.

However, benefits through the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs are still affected by state laws against same-sex marriage, DOJ found. The Obama administration on Friday will urge Congress to pass a series of bills that would extend such benefits to all same-sex couples, regardless of where they live, the Post reports (Washington Post, 6/20).