The Obama administration Tuesday
expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to partially include
gay families. A new definition of a son or daughter announced by the
Labor Department allows gay workers access to unpaid time off under
The law allows employees working for
businesses with 50 or more workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid
leave each year to take care of a newborn child, adopt or assume care
for a foster child, or care for a loved one (spouse, child or parent)
The agency's new definition extends the
familial bond beyond a legal or biological relationship, extending
the parental definition to anyone who is assuming the role of caring
for a child.
“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,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a
“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,” she added.
There were no plans to extend the FMLA
to the spouses of gay and lesbian workers. That would require repeal
of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that defines
marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies.
“At the end of the day, to address
challenges that face gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
Americans, not only will the administration need to take regulatory
actions like this, but Congress will have to make changes too,”
Kevin Nix, communications director for the Family Equality Council
told gay weekly Metro
however, stressed that the regulation change would benefit the two
million children being raised by LGBT parents.
The AP is reporting that the
administration has no plans to ask Congress to alter the law, which
means future administrations could reverse the decision.