Stella Maxwell
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Texas Successfully Blocks New Federal Rights for Gay Couples

Texas Successfully Blocks New Federal Rights for Gay Couples

Federal judge Reed O'Connor, an appointee of George W. Bush, blocked the Family and Medical Leave Act from applying to all legally-married couples regardless if they live in states that don't recognize their marriage, the Washington Blade reports.

The decision was prompted by a lawsuit from Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, a marriage equality opponent. The FMLA guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for an employee who has a serious illness or needs to care for a spouse, child, or parent (26 weeks if the family member is in the military and has a serious illness or injury). Both public and private employers have to provide the leave, with the exception of those that have fewer than 50 employees.

The FMLA, enacted in 1993, has historically recognized spouses on the basis of whether the couple’s state of residence recognizes their marriage. The proposed Labor Department rule, which O'Connor blocked, would have changed that. The rule was to take effect Friday.

O'Connor's 24-page ruling included the following passage: “The Court finds that Plaintiffs have demonstrated that irreparable injury would occur. For example, the Final Rule would require Texas agencies to recognize out-of-state same-sex unions as marriages in violation of Texas Family Code § 6.204(c)(2), which expressly prohibits state agencies from ‘giving effect to a . . . right or claim to any legal protection, benefit, or responsibility asserted as a result of a marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil union in this state or in any other jurisdiction.’…Defendants’ argument that the Final Rule only affects the states in their capacity as employers does not take into account the clear and expansive language of the text. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have met their burden under this factor.” 

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