A federal district court in Texas has issued an injunction preventing—at least temporarily—the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing a final rule grantingto legally married same-sex spouses.
On March 26, the attorneys general of Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Texas persuaded Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that the final rule—which was to have taken effect on March 27—conflicts with their states’ laws.
The DOL rule, issued Feb. 24, updated the’s definition of “spouse” to cover everyone married in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, regardless of whether the state where they reside recognizes same-sex marriage. Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Texas do not recognize same-sex marriages, no matter where the weddings were performed.
O’Connor agreed with the states that they would be “irreparably harmed” if the rule went into effect, since it would require employers to violate state law.
Among the states’ arguments: That the final rule violates the express language contained in the FMLA defining “spouse” as “a husband or wife, as the case may be.”
O’Connor’s ruling noted that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear a case that could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell v. Hodges, due to be argued April 28, is expected to decide if the Constitution’s 14th Amendment requires all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize marriages legally performed in other states.
O’Connor noted that his injunction “does not prohibit employers from granting leave to those who request leave to care for a loved one.”
The DOL rule came about after the Supreme Court’s 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that interpreted “marriage” and “spouse” to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law.
Under the DOL’s final rule, eligibility for FMLA protections is based on the law of the place where the marriage was entered into. This “place of celebration” provision allows all legally married couples, to have consistentrights.