A federal court has temporarily blocked a federal rule change that would give medical leave benefits to certain same-sex couples, according to an announcement Thursday from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
In a lawsuit filed this month, Paxton challenged the Obama administration's change to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, which would have granted paid time off to legally married same-sex couples, even if they live in a state like Texas that does not recognize gay marriage. The rule change was scheduled to go into effect Friday.
“The Obama Administration’s attempt to force employers to recognize same-sex marriages would have put state agencies in the position of either violating Texas law or federal regulations," Paxton said in a statement. "We are pleased that the Department of Labor’s effort to override our laws via federal rulemaking has been halted, and we will continue to defend our sovereignty in this case.”
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 have criticized Paxton's legal efforts to block benefits for same-sex couples at a time when the future of the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage is uncertain.
The state’s ban is 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 the constitutionality of the ban in the coming months, but 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 next month.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said 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.