Friday, June 20 saw the White House announce that all same sex couples in the US could access the benefits under The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This would also include Americans living in states that do not recognize same sex marriages. The expansion of the act will be facilitated by a series of changes in the federal policies that Obama administration will carry out.
The move comes after a year since the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act 1996. In a decision that was a landmark for the same sex community, the Supreme Court held that gay couples living in states that recognize their marital status, were legible to receiving the same benefits as heterosexual couples. These included Social Security, federal healthcare and tax benefits to name a few.
The Obama administration is now working on extending the benefits to all same sex couples across the nation, including the ones not living in states that recognize gay marriage.
Labor Department announces proposal to extend the FMLA
The proposed rule was made public by the Labor Department on Friday, when it stated that employees with same sex partners were eligible for leave to take care of their spouses – even if they lived/worked in states that do not recognize their marital status. Department Secretary Thomas E. Perez said that all families equally will be entitled to the benefits of the FMLA so that employees with same sex partners don’t have to choose between care-giving for their family and succeeding at work.
The rule would apply to Americans working in the private sector only, as per the scope of the FMLA. Even though an exact number hasn’t been specified, it is believed that the expansion will benefit thousands of same sex couples. Additionally, the Office of Personal Management proposed similar extension of benefits for federal employees.
Things that will change
Federal agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Elections Commission are working on policies to recognize same sex couples. The language in federal policies has been changed from “state of residence” to “place of celebration” in the process to recognize the place where same sex marriage was registered.
Apart from the extension of the FMLA, Social Security and Veterans Affairs will be extended to allow same sex survivors enjoy social security benefits, and same sex spouses will have the right to be buried in military cemeteries. Since the VA and SSA cannot change the language and recognize same sex couples, the Congress will pass a bill to allow the two agencies to recognize such couples using their “place of celebration.”