US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Harkin Welcomes Proposed Changes to Expand to Same-Sex Couples Rights Already Afforded to Other American Families

Administration Announcements Will Extend Federal Benefits to Married Same-Sex Couples

Friday, June 20, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement after the Obama Administration announced two administrative actions that will extend critical federal benefits to families headed by same-sex couples.   The first announcement, from the Department of Labor (DOL), clarifies that an employee is eligible for leave to care for a same-sex spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes their marital status.  The second, from the Department of Justice (DOJ), specifies that same-sex couples can collect other federal benefits regardless of their state of residence.  The DOL and DOJ announcements stem from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“For more than 21 years, the Family and Medical Leave Act has made a significant impact on the lives of millions by enshrining in law the protection that Americans can tend to their family without losing their job.  With today’s proposed change, the Obama Administration is rightly affording to same sex couples the same rights. A sudden accident, an unexpected diagnosis, or a major medical procedure are all significant life events that virtually all couples will confront in their lifetimes.  The Administration's move to allow married same-sex couples to utilize job-protected leave to care for a spouse is a very welcome step, and is further evidence of our President's commitment to ensuring that all families are afforded the same federal benefits. 

“Additionally, I was pleased to hear of the Administration’s progress in working to ensure that married same-sex couples are eligible to receive a variety of federal benefits already afforded to married opposite-sex couples. I join our President in the belief that our laws are designed to protect and benefit all Americans, regardless of whom they love and whom they choose to marry.”

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