If you’re straight and you need time off to care for a sick spouse, federal law requires that you get Family and Medical Leave. But if you’re gay, you could get denied that right, depending on what state you live in. A new rule was supposed to expand access to Leave for gay couples last week, but at the last minute Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to stop it. Now a judge has put the rule-change on hold. That means that Texan LGBTs will have to choose between taking care of their family and keeping their job.
The basis for last week’s ruling was the Defense of Marriage Act. Wait, didn’t the Supreme Court overturn DOMA? Well, technically, no. The Supreme Court only ruled against the part of DOMA that blocks the federal government from recognizing marriage. There’s another part that allows one state to disregard licenses from another state. And Paxton thinks that should give him permission to withhold medical leave from gays and lesbians who married in other states.
Of course, there’s one other authority here that Texas might want to consider: The U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court will hopefully rule in June that the equal protection clause applies to LGBTs. But homophobic Texas lawmakers are preparing for that, too. They’re pushing a bill that would give the Secretary of State the authority to punish any clerk who issues a license to couples the state doesn’t like. That means Texas would be saying, in essence, “oh we’re letting clerks obey the Supreme Court’s ruling. We’re just punishing them for doing so.”
Meanwhile, the Alabama marriage mess is continuing. The latest update: state Attorney General Luther Strange has asked a court to reject a class-action suit filed on behalf of the state’s LGBT couples. He says that even though they can estimate how many gays and lesbians live in Alabama, there’s just no way to know how many of them want to be treated equally. The plaintiffs will respond to that on Wednesday of this week, as soon as they can find a legal way to say “pretty much all of them do.”