Earlier this week, the Obama administration issued a ruling calling for the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows people to take time off work to care for their sick spouse, to extend to people in same-sex marriages nationwide.
But the George W. Bush-appointed U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor has blocked the change from going into effect, citing “irreparable harm” that would take place in Texas, which filed a lawsuit against the new policy.
“The Court concludes that all of the plaintiff states have met their burden of alleging that the Final Rule will require the states to violate their own laws,” O’Connor writes. “Moreover, as the final rule is scheduled to take effect on March 27, 2015, Plaintiffs allege a sufficiently immediate threat of harm.”
The judge cites the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Texas as a reason for why a preliminary injunction placing the rule on hold is appropriate as litigation continues.
Although numerous judges have interpreted the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act as a precedent for striking down bans on same-sex marriage, O’Connor writes the ruling and the Full Faith and Credit Statute of DOMA — which remains standing — prohibit the Obama administration from affording FMLA benefits in non-marriage equality states.
“The Full Faith and Credit Statute affirms Congress’ intention to reserve the power to define marriage and accompanying rights and benefits to the states, and Windsor cabins Congress’ authority to aggrandize that power,” O’Connor writes. “Congress could not have delegated to the Department the power to define marriage in a way as to override the laws of states prohibiting same-sex marriages.”
Because allowing a person to take care of their sick spouse would cause irreparable harm to the state of Texas. Okay. Sure.