Evaluating Obama's New Gay Rights Initiative

Expanding childcare leave and visitation rights

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The Labor Department is set to expand gay rights by allowing workers to take family and medical leave to care for sick or newborn children of same-sex partners. Such protections have existed for straight couples since 1993. Here's what writers are making of this latest expansion of gay rights by the Obama administration.

  • What This Does--And Does Not Do ABC News' Jake Tapper explains, "Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will this week -- likely Tuesday -- issue regulations ordering businesses to abide by an expanded interpretation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, sources tell ABC News, an interpretation that will require them to recognize on one level same sex marriages and other non-'traditional' families when upholding the 1993 law giving employees unpaid leave to care for sick family members or newborns. ... The move is not, however, a full expansion of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires businesses of 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for employees to care for family members with medical needs, including childbirth. This expansion applies only to caring for children."
  • Obama Building Gay Rights Legacy The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen beams, "The pace hasn't always kept up with the hopes of supporters, but it's hard not to notice that the Obama administration's record on advances in gay rights keeps improving." Benen lists the many such accomplishments. However, "For religious right groups hoping to label Obama our 'first gay president,' the criticism will likely get more intense."
  • The Quiet Revolution The Washington Post's Michael Shear writes, "In the past year and a half, President Obama has quietly used his powers to expand federal rights and benefits for gays and lesbians, targeting one government restriction after another in an attempt to change public policy while avoiding a confrontation with Republicans and opponents of gay rights. The result is that scores of federal rules blocking gay rights have been swept aside or reinterpreted by Obama officials eager to advance the agenda of a constituency that strongly backed the president's 2008 campaign."
  • So Much For Letting Congress Legislate Conservative blogger Allahpundit writes, "Executive orders: Is there anything they can't do? ... I'm surprised that he didn't ask Congress to handle this. Sure, it's a hot-button issue with the midterms looming, but we already crossed that bridge when the House okayed repealing don't ask, don't tell by a wide margin. Presumably The One figures that as mainstream acceptance of gays grows, even a future Republican president won't dare rescind the order. In which case, why force another tough vote on the Blue Dogs?"
  • At Issue: What Legally Defines a 'Parent'? The New York Times' Robert Pear writes, "Jennifer W. Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, another advocacy group, estimated that one million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families were raising two million children. The upshot of the Labor Department policy, she said, is that 'if you act like a parent, do the work of a parent and raise a child like a parent, then you are a parent for the purpose of the Family and Medical Leave Act.' Federal law does not recognize same-sex relationships. But Labor Department lawyers have concluded that people in such relationships may nevertheless qualify for family and medical leave when they act as parents, sharing the care and support of a child."
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