On Its Anniversary, FMLA Needs a Face Lift

>>Same-sex family>>Twenty-one years ago this week, the first American families obtained legal permission to take time off work to care for a loved one. Signed into law in 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act has >>enriched millions of lives by permitting moms and dads to stay with their children, and giving children time to aid ailing parents. Although it was revolutionary at the time, we now know that FMLA doesn’t go nearly far enough. In fact, it completely overlooks the existence of same-sex families.

Right now, a woman cannot take legally protected time off to care for her wife with cancer. A dad could lose his job if he needs to spend time with his husband’s biological child. Although these rights are granted to heterosexual spouses, the FMLA makes no mention of people married to someone of the same sex.

1993 was a different time. President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy received praise for allowing gay service members to serve. States still had laws on the books that allowed discrimination based on sexual orientation. And gay marriage wasn’t even on the agenda. The first legal gay marriage didn’t even take place in the U.S. until 2004.

As soon as gay marriage became >>federally recognized in 2013, family rights should have followed. Instead, across the country there are families who have legal partnerships but lack one of our country’s greatest rights. In states where gay marriage is legal, >>FMLA is given to all workers— but here in North Carolina, even those who have been legally married elsewhere cannot take protected leave.

The Department of Labor >>has asked for comments on a proposed change that would give FMLA protections to same-sex couples, and heterosexual couples in common law marriages. You can add your comment >>through a web form through August 11th.

It’s hard to tell what’s next for same-sex marriage in North Carolina. >>A ruling by the 4th Circuit Court last week indicates that it could be legalized any day now. But even if it’s not, these families deserve the time to care for each other. They’ve earned it.


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