Obama Expands Family Medical Leave Act to Cover Gay Employees
The Labor Department is poised to announce new regulations this week that order U.S. employers to give gay employees equal treatment under the law, allowing those workers unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The announcement comes as the President Obama declares June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender month, with a celebration Tuesday night at the White House.
But while some say recognizing gay parenthood is important to the LGBT community, there are other more prominent issues those in the community would like to see progress on, like recognizing same-sex marriage.
Obama has said he does not support same-sex marriage, but Carrie Gordon Earle of Focus on the Family says the latest effort by the Labor Department is a unilateral move by the Obama White House designed to eventually bypass the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
"This is just one more example of where the Obama administration is really bypassing the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as one man and one woman," Earle told Fox News. "And they're trying to redefine marriage and family by these arbitrary policies with no debate by congress, no public discussion about it."
Brian Moulton of the Human Rights Campaign, a group working on behalf of the LGBT community, says the latest move by the administration is a step in the right direction, toward perhaps an eventual repeal of DOMA.
"Certainly it's not medical leave to take care of a partner, it's not repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. It's a small step, but it's an important one," he said.
The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to take care of loved ones or themselves. The 1993 law, which also allows employees to take time off for adoptions, has previously only been applied to heterosexual couples.
The Family Medical Leave Act is not the only issue the Obama administration is handling that pertains to the gay community.
Earlier this month, Obama issued orders for government agencies to extend child care services and expanded family leave to their workers. Obama's order for federal employees, though, covers only benefits that can be extended under existing law, without congressional action. Legislative action would be required for a full range of health care and other benefits.
Last year, Obama gave federal workers' same-sex partners a first round of benefits including visitation and dependent-care rights. He also authorized child-care services and subsidies; more flexibility to use family leave to attend to the needs of domestic partners and their children; relocation benefits; giving domestic partners the same status as family members when federal appointments are made; and access to credit union and other memberships when those are provided to federal workers.
The White House is also focused on the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- something the president said he would work on in his State of the Union address earlier this year. Yet the gay community is losing patience with Obama after he made a campaign promise to repeal the ban.
Moulton said he'd like to see the repeal happen as soon as possible.
"I think we keep moving along a pace and the Pentagon will finish its review and we are hopeful and confident president is going to move toward that certification as soon as possible." Moulton said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.