The US Labor Department updated the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) this week to update the meaning of “spouse” to include same-sex partners who reside in another state.

via pedram

via pedram

The FMLA update means employees in legal, same-sex marriages can take family medical leave to take care of their spouse even if they live in another state. The change could affect up to 118,000 spouses.

“The basic promise of the FMLA is that no one should have to choose between the job and income they need, and caring for a loved one,” US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said Monday in a news release. “With our action today, we extend that promise so that no matter who you love, you will receive the same rights and protections as everyone else.”

Experts estimate many of the 1.38 million same-sex couples in the country could get married and therefore be eligible for FMLA protections. About 70,200 Americans who are in same-sex marriages are raising children, and 80 percent of these parents are employed.

“Until the Supreme Court settles the issue of full nationwide marriage equality this summer, fairness and equality – and the Supreme Court’s decision in the Windsor case – demanded this important change,” said David Stacy, director of the Human Rights Campaign, which collected and submitted more than 19,000 comments to the Department of Labor last year to support this change.

The Supreme Court ruling in US v Windsor struck down a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that had the definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” as only applying to opposite-sex unions. The recent FMLA update is in line with this ruling.

Media Resources: The Williams Institute 2/23/2015; The Hill 2/23/2015; HRC Blog 2/23/2015

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