June 23, 2010

FMLA for Gay "Partners?"

Expansion of Gay Benefits Threatens Private Sector
by Kim Trobee, editor - citizenlink.org

The Labor Department is set to announce on Wednesday that the government will extend benefits to gay couples under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA allows private and public employees to take extended absences for serious medical conditions, including pregnancy, or to care for family members.

The move is significant, because to date, the administration has only looked at benefits for federal employees.

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said the latest plan may cause trouble for private employers.

"This action with the Family and Medical Leave Act is a huge leap beyond anything he's done before because he is imposing an obligation upon private employers," he said. "He's not the chief executive of every private employer in the country, and yet, he is telling them that they have to offer benefits to homosexual couples."

The latest announcement is part of a series of incremental steps that started a year and a half ago. The Obama administration has expanded benefits for the partners of gay federal workers to include long-term health insurance, access to day care, Federal Housing Authority loans and federal child-care subsidies.

Matt Barber, associate dean for career and professional development at Liberty University School of Law, said the president is acting on behalf of gay activists.

"He's really running roughshod," Barber said, "over the express language of the FMLA and is definitely violating the clear language of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)."

DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman.

"It is not within the power or authority of the president to effect a de facto repeal simply by these little regulations, one regulation at a time," Sprigg said. "The president is going beyond his constitutional and legal authority. If he wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, he needs to persuade Congress to repeal it."

The presidential proclamation for Father's Day exemplified the administration's changing rhetoric on the issue. It asserted that "nurturing families come in many forms," including "two fathers."

Jenny Tyree, marriage analyst for CitizenLink, said the president has been talking out of both sides of his mouth.

"He's been a supporter of married mothers and fathers in name only," she told The Washington Post. "He speaks very passionately and touchingly about how he grew up without a father. And yet there is this huge disconnect in how he's undermining that same opportunity for other children."

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