As the Obama Administration prepares to celebrate its LGBT Pride Month reception later this afternoon at the White House, the President will announce another incremental advance toward equality. The Administration will order businesses to extend unpaid family leave for employees to care for sick or newborn children of same-sex partners, reports The New York Times.
"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."
The announcement will be formally made tomorrow by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
The new policy change will not allow to gay and lesbian employees to care for same-sex partners, again, due to the Defense of Marriage Act. And this is a policy change, not a legislative change, so the policy can be dropped by the next Administration.
The President is expected to enumerate this and other LGBT-specific action items at today's Pride reception. The now-familiar pattern of announcing cautious, incremental LGBT advances "has been the administration's favored strategy, drawing neither serious fire from conservatives nor lavish praise from activists," reports the AP.
The White House boasts a long list of accomplishments to tout during meetings with gay and lesbian organizations, but their reach is limited. For instance, Obama signed a hate crimes bill into law, expanded benefits for partners of State Department employees and ended the ban on HIV-positive persons from visiting the United States. He referenced families with "two fathers" in his Father's Day proclamation last week and devoted 38 words of his State of the Union address to repealing "don't ask, don't tell," the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
There's reason for the frustration. Obama's campaign pledged to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," yet that goal remains years away. His Justice Department invoked incest in a legal brief defending the traditional definition of marriage, prompting some gay donors last year to boycott the Democratic National Committee. And just last week, a committee at his Health and Human Services Department recommended the nation retain its policy barring gay men from donating blood. 'Two wars, a financial crisis, now an oil spill, plus a fundamental unwillingness to act boldly on gay rights, have rendered Obama agenda-less on this issue,' said Richard Socarides, who advised Clinton on gay policies.
Obama's allies say the small-bore changes are the best activists can hope despite Democrats controlling the White House, the Senate and the House. 'The reason why these policy changes are important is because we do not have ironclad LGBT majorities in either house of Congress,' said Fred Sainz, a vice president at the Human Rights Campaign, Washington's largest gay rights organization. 'People wrongly assume that having Democratic majorities in Congress means that your legislative goals will be met. That's not the case,' Sainz said.
Of course, Fred.
Looking forward to this afternoon's White House LGBT reception: As was the case with last year's reception, the gust list has remained closely guarded. But the invitees will not include the leaders from national groups such as HRC, reports the Washington Blade. "[I]nvitations generally were restricted to the heads of state equality groups, members of the LGBT community with compelling stories and a contingent of LGBT youth.... Leaders of state equality groups who were invited to the White House Pride reception and said they want to hear Obama speak about issues affecting LGBT people in the places they represent."
Constance McMillen is among those invited. More news, pictures and hopefully video later.