Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will this week — likely Tuesday — issue regulations ordering businesses to abide by an expanded interpretation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, sources tell ABC News, an interpretation that will require them to recognize on one level same sex marriages and other non-"traditional" families when upholding the 1993 law giving employees unpaid leave to care for sick family members or newborns.
"Families look different now," an Obama administration official told ABC News. "Family relationships look different now. And we're interpreting the law to reflect that."
The move is not, however, a full expansion of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires businesses of 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for employees to care for family members with medical needs, including childbirth. This expansion applies only to caring for children.
The official — who requested anonymity since he had not been authorized to speak about the announcement, which was reported earlier this evening by The Associated Press — insisted that the move "is not a change in the law, but it's an interpretation of the law. And it's a long time coming."
The administration official said the new interpretation takes a more expansive view of what a family is, include the legal term "in loco parentis" — "people who act as parents. So, yes, gay parents would count, but also it's the grandmother that has a set relationship with the grandchild." The expanded interpetation will not apply to same sex partners caring for each other.
As it happens, President Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks at an event for LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender — Pride Tuesday evening in the East Room of the White House.
The official said that the announcement is "much broader than LGBT families. It's certainly a win for the LGBT community, but it's also a win for working families no matter what they look like."
LGBT activists have criticized the president for taking his time in implementing initiatives that would afford LGBT individuals and couples the same rights as heterosexuals. Coverage of this announcement in LGBT press would seem to indicate that the fact that full familial rights are not being bestowed by this announcement will remain an issue until President Obama follows through with campaign promises such as overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.
– Jake Tapper