FMLA would likely be expanded if Defense of Marriage Act repealed

Under a bill introduced to the United States Senate on Wednesday by Senator Diane Feinstein of California, those who would be protected by the Family Medical Leave Act would be expanded. The Senator’s bill would repeal the federal ban on same-sex marriages and as a result same-sex married couples would receive the same benefits under federal law as heterosexual married couples currently receive.

Senator Feistein’s bill is called the “Respect for Marriage Act” and would allow legally married gay couples to have the same benefits as legally married heterosexual couples like receiving spousal benefits under Social Security, being able to take unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, filing joint federal income tax returns and taking certain deductions and certain estate tax protections as well as a host of other benefits.

The bill was introduced after the Obama administration concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional in February. Since then, the Obama administration has ordered the Justice Department to stop enforcing the federal law. The Defense of Marriage Act was passed during the Clinton administration and defines marriage as a union between a man and woman. The federal law also says that states do not have to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Currently, the bill has 18 co-sponsors and a similar bill has been introduced in the House where it will likely face stiffer resistance given the Republican majority. Commenting on the bill Senator Feinstein said that tens of thousands of legally married same-sex couples reside in the United States who “care for each other during sickness and in health” and who raise families like “all married people.”

Source: Oakland Tribune, “Feinstein introduces bill to repeal Defense of Marriage Act, recognize same-sex marriages,” Josh Richman, 3/16/11

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