Politics

Texas AG Paxton Really, Really Doesn't Want to Give Same-Sex Couples Family Leave

On March 26, the U.S. Department of Labor will change the definition of the word "spouse" as it's used in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Any person legally married to another person in any state will become eligible for the spousal benefits provided for in the act. The department is changing the definition to bring the FMLA in line with a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found that part of a federal law limiting the definition of spouse to straight couples was unconstitutional.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is not about to just let that happen. Allowing gay employees of businesses and organizations covered by the FMLA to take unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a sick spouse is just too much for Paxton to bear, so he's sued the United States of America in federal court.

"This lawsuit is about defending the sovereignty of our state, and we will continue to protect Texas from the unlawful overreach of the federal government. The newly revised definition of 'spouse' under the FMLA is in direct violation of state and federal laws and U.S. Constitution," Paxton said 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 has also instructed all state agency heads that they should not follow the changes made to federal law.

"The Office of the Attorney General is not amending its policy to comply with the [U.S. Labor Department's] unlawful rule and we advise state agencies to follow state law and not acede to the U.S. Department of Labor rule," he said.

Wednesday's letter and lawsuit are just the latest attack by Paxton on LGBTQ Texans. In February, he moved to have the marriage of Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant -- who were given an emergency marriage license in Travis County because of Goodfriend's health -- declared void. Additionally, he asked the Texas Supreme Court to prevent the Travis County clerk from issuing any additional licenses to same-sex couples.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young