Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Closer to Equality in Family Leave

The Associated Press is reporting that the Department of Labor is set to interpret existing law to allow family leave for same-sex couples:

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to take care of loved ones or themselves. The 1993 law, which also allows employees to take time off for adoptions, has previously only been applied to heterosexual couples. The Labor Department planned to extend those rights based on a new interpretation of the law, the officials said. There was no plan to ask Congress to change the law, which means future presidents could reverse the decision.

It's a welcome step during a month when many communities are celebrating Pride. In a state like Tennessee, it's particularly welcome because we have little hope for marriage equality in the near future. It's further evidence that President Obama has appointed people who are trying to find ways to make life better for GLBT families.

With all that said, though, until we pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees will not be out at work and are unlikely to ask to use this benefit. And until we have marriage equality, any of these admistrative changes can be taken away. Every step forward has been a mixture of relief and frustration. We can't help but feel relieved when these advances are announced. Each one means that the bar is moving a little higher (sometimes inches), but the need is so much greater. The frustration remains. It's not ingratitude; it's the desire for equality.

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