September 15, 2013 by WesleyD
Same-sex partners Eligible for Medical Leave Despite Gay Marriage Ban
The definition of immediate family may be redefined for purposes of medical leave by The Alaska State Personnel Board in a meeting scheduled for September 19. The board will most likely at that time change a rule that would add same-sex partner to the definition of what constitutes ‘immediate family.’ If this is approved, state employees would be allowed to take family leave in the event that their partner has a serious illness.
Baby Steps Towards Equality
Alaska, since 1998, has had a constitutional amendment that bans the state from recognizing same-sex marriage. In 2005, The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that state employee benefits extended to married couples must also be applied to same-sex couples In 2012, Alaska’s two U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, voted to end the ban of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Requirements for New Immediate Family
Nancy Sutch, Deputy Director of the State Government’s Personnel Office, said the proposed regulations will set out requirements that are similar to those for insurance coverage, in effect since 2006. If certain requirements are met, currently same-sex partners of state employees can qualify to be on their insurance. Requirements are: couples must certify, among other things, that they’ve been in committed, exclusive relationships for at least the past year and plan to continue their relationship indefinitely. For at least a year, they must have lived together and considered themselves to be members of each other’s immediate family.
Catalysts for Change
The proposed change in rules stems from a recent review of a 2005 Alaska Supreme Court decision. Attorneys wrote in the past June to the commissioners of Corrections and Administration on behalf of a Juneau corrections officer who wanted to take family leave to care for her partner, who was undergoing cancer treatment.
Legal director for American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, Tom Stenson, said “that you don’t have to be a great humanitarian or anything to realize people need support at those times and that is what the law is there to protect. People shouldn’t have to suffer through cancer alone because they are gay. This is such a basic human right to be able to support somebody when they’re getting medical treatment. It’s so fundamental it’s hard for me to see what the counter argument is.”.Follow enlightenedlbrl