Federal Judge Blocks Legally Married Same-Sex Couples in Texas From Accessing FMLA Benefits

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor today ruled against a policy change allowing legally married same-sex couples in non-marriage equality states to exercise their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act

WASHINGTON - Today, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, criticized a ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor that blocked a recent rule change to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) from the Department of Labor (DOL). Judge O’Connor’s decision prevents legally married same-sex couples in Texas from exercising their FMLA rights.

“No legally married same-sex couple should be denied family leave simply because they happen to live in a state that fails to respect their marriage,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Because of Judge O’Connor’s decision, countless legally married same-sex couples in Texas are now unable to access to their federal FMLA benefits. With a pending Supreme Court decision on nationwide marriage equality this summer, we are confident that justice will ultimately prevail.”

Because of the Supreme Court of the United States' decision in United States v. Windsor, DOL made a policy change from a “state of residence” rule to a “place of celebration” rule regarding marriage recognition. This change allows legally married same-sex couples access to their FMLA benefits no matter what state they live in. The DOL announcement stated: “The Final Rule amends the regulatory definition of spouse under the FMLA so that eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of where they live. This will ensure that the FMLA will give spouses in same-sex marriages the same ability as all spouses to fully exercise their FMLA rights.”

The state of Texas sued the federal government claiming this rule change violated their right to discriminate against same-sex couples and would force them to recognize legal marriages of same-sex couples from other states.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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