WASHINGTON — President Obama
will soon expand the rights of gay workers by allowing them to take family and medical leave to care for sick or newborn children of same-sex partners, administration officials said Monday. The policy will be set forth in a ruling to be issued Wednesday by the Labor Department’s wage and hour division, the officials said.
Under a 1993 law, people who work for a company with 50 or more employees are generally entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or for a spouse, son or daughter with “a serious health condition.” The new ruling indicates that an employee in a same-sex relationship can qualify for leave to care for the child of his or her partner, even if the worker has not legally adopted the child.
The ruling, in a formal opinion letter, tackles a question not explicitly addressed in the 1993 law. It is one of many actions taken by the Obama administration to respond to the concerns of gay men and lesbians within the constraints of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.
Federal law does not recognize same-sex relationships. But Labor Department lawyers have concluded that people in such relationships may nevertheless qualify for family and medical leave when they act as parents, sharing the care and support of a child.