Now planning for the the health and care of our families may become easier! The Obama Administration is making moves to ensure that the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will covers same-sex marriages, expanding the Act’s definition of “spouse” and also covering couples in states where marriage equality is not (yet) established. Although this policy in it’s nascent stages, with Obama asking the Labor Department to draft rules which make the FMLA inclusive of same-sex marriage, the move has been heralded across the media as a huge step in equalizing workplace policy for LGBT couples.
As noted by A Better Balance, there are several ways that the FMLA can be made even more inclusive: “The FMLA excludes more than 40% of all Americans due to the law’s eligibility requirements, and the law’s definition of “family” only covers spouses, children, and parents. As detailed in the most recent edition of our report Time for a Change, we need to broaden access to the FMLA and expand the law’s definition of family in order to fully meet the needs of LGBT families. Finally, many workers who are eligible for the FMLA cannot afford to take unpaid time off under the law. It is time for the United States to join the rest of the industrial world and guarantee paid leave to workers. A Better Balance is working at all levels of government to pass LGBT-inclusive paid leave laws that will help workers to care for their loved ones without risking their financial security.”
As the government changes policy to make it more LGBT inclusive, we have to keep pushing for not only inclusion, but rewrites of policy that make all individuals and families, regardless of marital status, equitable. How do we support those who are sick and impoverished when our systems continually place them on the outside of systems and categories society deems acceptable, those of “healthy, “ “employed,” and “financially stable?” How do we recognize that families and support networks, which research has shown to be so important for healing from illness, do not always look alike? Mica Salkind, a doctoral candidate at Brown University, recently stated in an interview when asked about his hopes for future generations of LGBT activists, that he hopes “the generation to come [understands] that fights for LGBTQ equality are intimately tied to fights for immigrant rights, worker’s rights, and fights for racial and environmental justice.” I could not have stated it more succinctly.