Paid time to care is important for LGBTQ families of all shapes and sizes, including: same-gender couples who may or may not be raising children, chosen families, multinational families, foster families, and any combination of these! While the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality provides opportunities for same-gender partners to get married, we know there are many reasons for why couples might not want to marry. So what kind of access to paid leave do same-gender couples- married or not- and other LGBTQ families have?
The short answer is that access varies by location and by employer. Since no federal law has passed yet which guarantees all workers access to paid sick days or paid family and medical leave, cities and states have been leading the way. Currently, workers in 34 jurisdictions (and soon all who work for contractors with a federal contract!) will have access to paid sick days, and workers in four states have or will have access to paid family & medical leave . Employers, of course, may always be more generous than the law, so where you work will also play a role.
Being able to use paid leave to take care of a same-gender partner, a child you’re parenting, or a member of your chosen family, may not be fully protected or guaranteed. Several factors impact this protection: whether the jurisdiction you work in or your employer has a paid sick days or paid leave policy and the way “family” is defined in that leave policy. Also important is whether the jurisdiction or employer has a policy regarding LGBTQ employment non-discrimination. Specific religious exemptions could allow your employer to deny use of paid leave for LGBTQ families,
As many LGBTQ rights advocates argued after the SCOTUS ruling, in 28 states a same-gender couple could get married one day and be fired the next for putting the wedding picture up at work. LGBTQ workers who want to take care of a same-gender partner, or use paid leave for transgender health care, may not have job protection to do so depending on the laws in their state.
Religious exemption laws may pose a similar risk to LGBTQ workers who disclose to their employer that they want to use their paid sick day to take care of a same-gender partner, or for their own transgender health care.
Finally, the way that “family” is defined can impact LGBTQ workers’ ability to use paid leave for their families. It’s important that the law’s definition of “parent,” “child,” “domestic partner,” and other family members ensure that diverse families are covered. Definitions that require biological relation and/or legal recognition often exclude many individuals who, for various reasons, may not had been able to have legal recognition of their family relationship.