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Government proposes new marriage definition for Family Medical Leave Act

Published: Monday, June 23 2014 3:05 p.m. MDT

The definition of spouse may be changed in the FMLA.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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The public is being invited to comment on a proposed change to the definition of "spouse" under the Family Medical Leave Act.

According to the notice published by the U.S. Department of Labor, the change reflects a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

In a press release, the Department of Labor said the proposed rule would change the definition of "spouse" to include all legally married couples: "Under the proposed rule, eligibility for FMLA protections would be based on the law of the place where the marriage was entered into, allowing all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless whether the state in which they currently reside recognizes such marriages."

It has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget and once it appears in the Federal Register, a specific comment period will be announced. People will then be able to submit comments at www.regulations.gov. Comments outside the published comment period will not be considered, it said.

"Under the proposed revisions, the FMLA will be applied to all families equally, enabling individuals in same-sex marriages to fully exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities to their families," Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a written statement.

The Wall Street Journal noted on Friday the extension of benefits to same-sex married couples by the Obama administration, including coverage of leave under FMLA.

Wrote Colleen McCain Nelson and Jess Bravin, "The White House is also expected to press Congress to pass legislation to change some provisions, such as Social Security benefits, to apply to same-sex married couples."

The article outlines programs and services that treat same-sex couples on par with traditionally married couples, those where "work-arounds" have been found, and others that do not extend equal benefit.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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