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Obama administration redefines ‘spouse’ to give gay couples medical benefits

Obama administration redefines ‘spouse’ to give gay couples medical benefits

The Obama administration has redefined the term ‘spouse’ to include married gay couples.

The plans, which have been published today by The Department of Labour in a new 52-page document, will grant gay couples the Federal right to job-protected leave from their place of work, so they can take care of a sick partner, child or parent under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave act (FMLA).

Under the revision, which will become law on March 27,  anyone in a same-sex marriage, regardless of where they currently live, will be eligible for the benefit as long as they were married in a state that permits gay marriage.

Previously, gay couples were at risk of losing their job if they chose to take an unpaid leave of absence from work to take care of their partner or family member. 

‘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,’ said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

‘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. All eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages, regardless of where they live, can now deal with a serious medical and family situation like all families — without the threat of job loss,’ he added.

The Human Rights Campaign’s Government Affairs Director David Stacy, said: ‘No legally married same-sex couple should be denied their federal family leave rights simply because they happen to live in a state that disrespects their marriage.’

‘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. We applaud the Obama Administration for continuing to ensure all legally married couples have access to the same federal rights, protections, and privileges that come with marriage wherever possible,’ he added.