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Texas sues federal government over FMLA benefits for same-sex couples

Texas sues federal government over FMLA benefits for same-sex couples

AUSTIN, Texas — The state of Texas on Tuesday filed suit against the Obama administration over plans to extend federal family leave benefits to married, same-sex couples.

Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas)
Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas) AP

The lawsuit comes in response to a rule change announced by the Labor Department 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 same-sex marriage, reports the Texas Tribune.

The rule change to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is scheduled to take effect March 27.

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. The new rule would direct state agencies to grant FMLA to all married couples, regardless of their state of residency.

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

“Texans have clearly defined the institution of marriage in our state, and attempts by the Obama Administration to disregard the will of our citizens through the use of new federal rules is unconstitutional and an affront to the foundations of federalism,” Paxton said.

Paxton has advised state agencies to ignore the rule and instead follow a state law that bans recognition of same-sex marriages.

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Neel Lane, an attorney representing gay couples in the Texas marriage equality case, criticized Paxton’s action.

“It appears Atty. Gen. Paxton has decided to follow his predecessor’s practice of wasting taxpayer money by filing hopeless politically-motivated lawsuits against the federal government that are doomed to fail,” Lane told the Dallas Morning News.

A federal judge has ruled the law unconstitutional, but Texas has been allowed to enforce the ban while it appeals the ruling.

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