Gay Mainers to have Family Medical Leave
Maine’s legislature passed a bill extending the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to same-sex couples and their families. Working with Equality Maine, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, and the Maine Women’s Lobby, GLAD helped organize testimony, planned media strategy, and talked to lawmakers about this important legislation. The bill, which Governor Baldacci signed into law on June 8, enables lesbian and gay employees to take time off work to care for a sick partner or partner’s child.
Background: One Familie’s Story
Near the end of her struggle with cancer, Sandy Osterby’s partner Donna wanted nothing more than to have Sandy by her side. And Sandy was there – once her co-workers generously donated their own sick time to her. That extraordinary generosity was necessary because Sandy and Donna were not covered by Maine’s Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The untenable choice between job security and urgent family needs was addressed this session by an amendment to Maine’s FMLA to include “domestic partners.” As of this writing, the bill passed Maine’s Senate by a vote of 28 to 5, passed the House by 95 to 41, and was signed into law by Governor John Baldacci.
GLAD worked with Equality Maine, the Maine Women’s Lobby, and other partners to push the legislation through while also demonstrating how many existing workplace protections benefit married families but not unmarried families. Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto testified before the Labor Committee, prepared an analysis of how marriage advantages working families, and talked with newspaper editorial boards to explain the issue. GLAD also helped people like Sandy to tell their own stories, both to legislators and to the media.
LGBT equality organizations and allies also testified about the differences between religious and civil marriage, workers compensation reforms, tax inequities, and access to absentee ballots.
“Family medical leave is only one of the many ways that gay and lesbian couples and families are harmed because they can’t marry,” said Bonauto. “This represents a step forward – but it would be far better and fairer to make comprehensive rather than piecemeal changes.”