How will expanded federal benefits for gay couples fly in Texas?

The drive for social acceptance of same-sex marriage is not letting up. The latest move came Friday with the announcement by the White House that President Obama has ordered the Labor Department to come up with rules to make sure that legally married gay couples get the benefits they are due under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Under the FMLA, workers at public and large private organizations are allowed to take unpaid leave to deal with family or medical emergencies without fear of losing their jobs.

In addition, the Justice Department announced yesterday that the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs have made policy changes, prompted by the Supreme Court's decision last year that found elements of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. 

What seems to make the latest announced changes particularly noteworthy is that they extend benefits to gay couples living in states like Texas where their marriages aren't recognized.

As a result of the VA rule change, individuals who are in same-sex relationships with a military veteran will have the right to be buried in a national cemetery. As relates to Social Security issues, the changes mean that same-sex partners in states that ban gay marriage will be eligible to receive spousal survivor benefits.

What effect the changes may have on the broader issue of eventual nationwide acceptance of gay marriage as opposed to domestic partnerships is still unclear. It does not seem too farfetched to think that the unilateral moves by the Obama administration will trigger more legal challenges before the courts.

In the meantime, the environment in which decisions are made about how to apply laws related to property rights and family law issues in Texas in cases involving same-sex domestic partners is likely to be complicated. An attorney's help in addressing such issues is always recommended.

Source: Reuters, "UPDATE 1-Obama administration extends rights of gay couples," Mark Felsenthal and Julia Edwards, June 20, 2014

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