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Department of Labor Issues Family and Medical Leave Guidance Including Children of Same-Sex Couples PDF Print E-mail
Jun 23, 2010 at 08:27 AM

HRC Praises Interpretation, Which Permits Leave to Care for a Partner’s Children

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – praised a Department of Labor interpretation of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that permits an employee to take FMLA leave for a child for whom he or she is acting as a parent, even if the employee does not have a legal or biological relationship to that the child.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers who serve as parents should be treated as parents, and be able to take advantage of important federal benefits, like Family and Medical Leave, that protect and strengthen all of America’s families. We thank Secretary Solis and the Department of Labor for taking this step forward for LGBT families.” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Today’s announcement, which does not extend FMLA leave to the same-sex partners and spouses of employees, also highlights the limitations of what fair-minded agencies can do. The Defense of Marriage Act continues to treat our families as second-class, and to achieve true equality for LGBT people, it must be repealed.”

“No one who loves and nurtures a child day-in and day-out should be unable to care for that child when he or she falls ill,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “No one who steps in to parent a child when that child’s biological parents are absent or incapacitated should be denied leave by an employer because he or she is not the legal guardian. No one who intends to raise a child should be denied the opportunity to be present when that child is born simply because the state or an employer fails to recognize his or her relationship with the biological parent. These are just a few of many possible scenarios. The Labor Department’s action today sends a clear message to workers and employers alike: All families, including LGBT families, are protected by the FMLA.”

The Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, permits eligible employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to, among other things, care for a spouse, son, daughter or parent with a serious health condition or attend to the birth or adoption of a son or daughter of the employee. The definition of “son or daughter” includes a “child of a person standing in loco parentis.” As with all federal statutes, however, the term “spouse” is governed by the definition of marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act, which is limited solely to the union of a man and a woman.

HRC provided the Department of Labor with a recommendation to clarify that the “in loco parentis” language in the FMLA’s definition of “son or daughter” explicitly includes the children of LGBT workers’ same-sex partners, even when those employees are unable to become legal parents under the laws of the states in which they live. This recommendation was part of HRC’s Blueprint for Positive Change, a series of policy actions that would be benefit LGBT people and their families which the Obama administration could institute without congressional action, and HRC worked with Department of Labor staff to move this important change forward.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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