Obama To Unilaterally Give Gay Couples Same Rights As Married Couples

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June 20, 2014 9:48am PST

The White House announced Friday that it will work to ensure that gay and lesbian Americans are eligible to take sick leave from their jobs to care for a same-sex spouse, and it won’t matter if they live in a state that recognizes gay marriage or not.

Obama said that he’s directing the Department of Labor to draft rules that would clarify the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to same-sex couples. The move would allow gay and lesbian employees to take unpaid leave in order to care for their sick spouse no matter what state they live in.

The Family Medical Leave Act allows employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for medical reasons involving their families.

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The proposed rule would extend the rights given through the FMLA in states where same-sex marriage isn’t recognized since under current law those states aren’t required to comply.

The move comes after Attorney General Eric Holder announced the landmark decision in the Windsor Supreme Court case that said the survivor in a same-sex marriage could claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses, and three years after the Obama administration stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

This is one of many unilateral moves Obama has made in order to extend rights to same-sex couples. On Tuesday, Obama said he would sign an executive order barring federal contractors from sexual orientation-based discrimination and in February Holder announced widespread changes in the Justice Department that would benefit gay couples.

Obama has also moved to ensure that gay couples are given equal access to health insurance, immigration privileges, and tax benefits. He also said that there are few benefits that current law prohibits the federal government from extending to same-sex couples.

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