HRC Blog

Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act Reintroduced

Late yesterday, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) re-introduced the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act (H.R. 1751 / S. 846). The legislation expands the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include protections for same-sex partners and spouses.

The FMLA, enacted in 1993, grants legally married spouses up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work to care for a seriously ill spouse, parent or child. The law does not however, cover same-sex partners or spouses, making it impossible for some employees to be with their partners during times of medical need.

Over 50 million Americans have had the opportunity to draw on the FMLA unpaid in the years since the law was passed. The new bill would update the law to protect more families as noted by Senator Durbin, “Regardless of the make-up of one’s family, all employees should be given the same rights to care for a sick loved one in a time of need. For 20 years, we have had a law that provides unpaid leave for families in crisis. As families change, so should the laws designed to help them.”

FMLA leave is just one of the more than 1,000 federal rights and benefits conditioned on marital status, and thus unavailable to same-sex couples because of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.  The Department of Labor took a small step in 2010 to address this inequity, when it issued guidance clarifying that an LGBT individual acting as parent, even where he or she is unable to become the legal parent of a partner’s child, is able to take unpaid leave to care for that child or attend to his or her birth or adoption. Corporate America has responded to the discrimination established by DOMA by extending FMLA-like leave for same-sex couples. Nearly half (247) of Fortune 500 companies, extend family leave to employees with same-sex partners.  As of today, 12 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring this critically important workplace benefit.  As helpful as these steps are, only action by Congress will make it possible for same-sex spouses and partners across the country to have equal access to FMLA leave. 

We thank Representative Maloney and Senator Durbin for introducing this important legislation and for their long-standing commitment to LGBT equality.

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