Texas Sues Feds Over Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

*Correction appended

The state of Texas is suing the Obama administration for giving medical leave benefits to certain same-sex couples, according to an announcement Wednesday from Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The lawsuit comes in response to a rule change announced by the president last month, which grants paid time off to legally married same-sex couples, even if they are living in a state, like Texas, that does not recognize gay marriage. The rule change to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is scheduled to take effect March 27.

“The newly revised definition of ‘spouse’ under the FMLA is in direct violation of state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution,” Paxton said in a written statement.

The federal rule change would apply to federal and state employees and private sector employees at workplaces with 50 or more employees. Currently, same-sex couples cannot get married in Texas, so only couples who were legally married elsewhere would be eligible for the benefits.

Gay rights advocates criticized the lawsuit.

“I think there are a lot of people who would like to know why the attorney general cares if loving, committed couples are recognized as loving, committed couples,” said Daniel Williams, legislative director for Equality Texas, a group that lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The constitutionality of the state’s gay marriage ban is currently being considered at the federal level. After a January hearing, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule on Texas’ gay marriage ban in the coming months. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to have the final word on the issue. It has agreed to hear four gay marriage cases from other states later this year.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated who would be affected by the Family Medical Leave Act rule change. The change would apply to federal and state employees and some private sector employees, not just federal employees.

 

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