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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Dallas Bucks Texas on Gay FMLA Leave

DALLAS (CN) - Ignoring Texas' lawsuit against the Obama administration's extension of same-sex couple medical leave rights, Dallas County approved such rights for its same-sex employees.

By 5-0 vote, the Dallas County Commissioners Court approved changes to the leave of absence and sick leave sections of the Dallas County Code.

The March 24 policy changes do not explicitly allow same-sex employees to take Family and Medical Leave Act leave, as state law bans counties and cities from recognizing gay marriages from other states. Texas voters banned gay marriage when they approved a constitutional amendment in November 2005, defining marriage as being between a man and woman.

But the policy changes allow county employees to select anyone as a "designated care recipient." The designated person must be in need of care, ill or incapacitated. It could be a boyfriend, a close friend or a neighbor, county officials said.

Approved leave requests cannot exceed 90 continuous calendar days and will be granted every two years from the date a previous leave ended.

The policy changes were approved one week after Texas sued the Labor Department in Wichita Falls Federal Court, claiming the federal agency's extension of same-sex couple FMLA leave violates the Texas Constitution because it redefines the definition of a " spouse ."

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor imposed a preliminary injunction on Thursday, halting implementation of the rule change.

Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed the rule violates the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, which "struck down federal interference with state law governing domestic relations."

Framing the rule change as an attack on Texas' sovereignty, Paxton claimed it "places an enormous burden" on employers to decide on same-sex couple leave requests that have been made without the guidance of the U.S. Supreme Court or the 5th Circuit.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio struck down the state's gay marriage ban in February 2014. The case is on appeal.

"Employers in Texas will be called upon to decide issues that the Supreme Court has not yet decided, and those employers do so without the benefit of briefing and oral arguments for the full presentation of the issues on both sides," Paxton's complaint states.

Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska have joined the lawsuit.

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