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Family Equality Council On FMLA: Protecting Our Families When They’re Most Vulnerable

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This guest article is by Emily Hecht-McGowan, Director of Public Policy for Family Equality Council.

Today, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the inclusion of our families in this important law. Since 1993, Americans have accessed benefits under FMLA over 100 million times, and we’ve worked hard as a community to make sure this protection extends to our lives and our families.

What is the Family & Medical Leave Act?

FMLA is the only federal law that allows workers to take leave without endangering their job. Eligible workers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for health conditions, to bond with a new child, or to care for an ill family member.

Because of our work with the US Department of Labor and our national coalition partners, the FMLA coverage was expanded in 2010 to allow non-legally recognized parents to take leave when their children are sick. In other words, due to this change many of our families now have access to this critical family benefit – including same-sex spouses or domestic partners who are unable to adopt or otherwise become legal parents to the children they are raising.

These provisions can make a tremendous difference for our families, especially when we live in states that don’t permit joint or second-parent adoptions.

What impact does this have on Families? Gina, Pauline, and Lily’s experience with FMLA

Gina Patterson and her wife Pauline were one of the first same-sex couples married in New York – and at the time Pauline was three months pregnant with their daughter Lily. Full of hope for their life together and excited to be welcoming a daughter into their lives, Gina and Pauline were grateful to be happy, healthy, and legally recognized as a family.

When Lily was finally born, Pauline, as Lily’s biological mother, was able to take 12 weeks of paid leave to care for Lily – much like mothers across the country do every day.

But as many new parents know, those 12 weeks go by quickly. Lily wasn’t nearly ready for daycare, and as two working Moms — Gina works for the New York state court system and Pauline is a music publisher – they were facing difficult decisions just as all new parents must.

Knowing that she hadn’t yet had the chance to spend time watching their baby grow and develop and caring for her, and since Gina, a lawyer, knew her options under the expanded FMLA coverage, she applied to take federal unpaid child care leave to care for Lily.

Unlike most opposite-sex couples, who have less trouble accessing these programs and services, Gina was asked for a note from Lily’s pediatrician saying that she should be able to take time off to care for her daughter.  The FMLA expansion that our community secured in 2010 ensured that Lily never lacked the love and nurturing of both her parents could provide.

Because of Gina’s background in the law she was prepared for the amount of advocacy she would need to do on her own behalf to access this coverage – and Lily benefited from Gina’s knowledge and experience.

This is a common experience for many LGBT parents, whether at the doctor’s office or at their child’s school, but not all families are as informed about the law or as prepared to take on this added burden of explaining to schools, doctors, and employers about the vagaries of the legal ties many of us have to our children.

Fortunately, Gina’s workplace was a welcoming one and once the HR department confirmed that Gina was eligible as a parent standing in loco parentis to take leave to care for Lily, and she was able to get the time off she needed.

While Gina, Pauline, & Lily’s story has a happy ending, and baby Lily was never denied having loving mothers when she needed them most, many families have been denied this vital protection.

Where do we go from here?

Many parents are unaware that this coverage exists and not all of these stories are as cut and dry.

Mothers and fathers all over the United States should be able to care for their families in their most vulnerable times without endangering their job. Because of FMLA – and specifically the inclusion of our families in it – many parents who are LGBT are covered, and can focus on the important task of caring for their family.

We are looking forward to building on our successes and to ensuring that our families are completely protected and included. However, there are still important changes to be made. Right now, same-sex spouses/partners are not currently covered under FMLA, in part because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). We are continuing to work with the Obama administration and our organizational partners to make sure this law includes us completely. We support the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, which would expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to permit an employee to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave from work to care for their same-sex spouse/partner with a serious health condition.

We also support the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would provide paid sick leave for all workers to care for their families, including LGBT parents and same-sex spouses/partners.

For more information on these issues, please visit our the Family Equality Council’s Advocacy Center.

The Family Equality Council is on Facebook and Twitter.

skitched-20130205-165923Emily Hecht-McGowan is the Director of Public Policy for Family Equality Council. She previously served as the Legal Director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network where she assisted service members impacted by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and related forms of discrimination. Prior to her time with SLDN, Emily was the Assistant Section Director for the American Bar Association’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities where she spearheaded the ABA’s civil rights, human rights and social justice policy work. Emily holds a BA in History from American University and a JD from the Columbus School of Law.  She lives in Takoma Park, MD with her wife Sharon and their daughter Sadie and their trusty beagle, Ellie.

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OPINION

Speaker Johnson: Marjorie Taylor Greene Turned Me Into a ‘Mental Health Counselor’

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Mike Johnson, the Republican Speaker of the House, admitted to a local Louisiana radio station talk show that U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and some others in the GOP conference force him to spend “half” his day “as a mental health counselor.”

Appearing on KEEL’s “Mike & McCarthy” show, as Daily Mail reported, Speaker Johnson on Tuesday was asked if he and the far-right Christian nationalist congresswoman had “kissed and made up” after she tried to oust him in a dramatically failed “motion to vacate.”

“Oh good grief. You know me, I don’t I don’t carry grudges,” Johnson replied. “I don’t you know, you know, I don’t keep a record of wrongs. I went up to her right after her ridiculous tirade and said, ‘You know what, still gotta work together, Marjorie. … How about training some of that energy against the Democrats?'”

“Look. This is all gonna work out. I spend half my day as Speaker of the House and the other half as a mental health counselor,” getting everybody “through their issues.”

Daily Mail also reported that “in November, McCarthy had a piece of advice for his successor: ‘Bring in a psychiatrist for many of these members.'”

READ MORE: ‘Biggest Felony in American History’: Prosecutor’s Closing Argument Against Trump Praised

In addition to his remarks about the Georgia Republican, Speaker Johnson went after President Joe Biden.

Asked about the southern border, Johnson defended House Republicans, insisting, “we’ve been fighting since Joe Biden walked into the Oval Office and started issuing executive orders to open it wide.

That’s false, there are no executive orders “to open it wide.”

He also ignored how in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans worked for months and came together to craft a tough immigration and border security bill that was supported by President Biden, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and senators on both sides of the aisle – until Donald Trump killed it.

Johnson appeared uninterested in working with Democrats, whom he said he told Congresswoman Greene to fight.

He also insisted House Republicans have been “fighting tooth and nail” against Democrats.

“Here’s the problem. Everybody has to remember. We have the smallest majority and only one chamber of Congress and I have a one vote margin, right,” Johnson lamented. “So I can pass things in the House. But it doesn’t mean it’s gonna become law, because the progressive Democrats run the White House and the Senate and so we sit over our legislation, we pass resolutions. We impeached Secretary Mayorkas at Department of Homeland Security. First time a Cabinet Secretary has been impeached in the history of the United States.”

That too is false. In 1876 the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Secretary of War William Belknap.

Johnson also falsely claimed President Biden and the Democrats “wanted us to not fund the government and [to] shut it down. Because they know that [would be] blamed on Republicans, it would be very painful for the American people and then that would that would make sure that we lost the House majority, the narrow majority that we have, in November.”

During Speaker Johnson’s tenure and during his predecessor’s, Democrats joined with Republicans to keep the federal government open and running, while far-right extremists, including Rep. Greene, wanted to shut it down.

One fact Speaker Johnson neglected to mention: Democrats saved his job when Congresswoman Greene tried to oust him.

READ MORE: Supreme Court ‘Puppetmaster’ Slammed Over Report He’s Flying Alito’s ‘Theocratic’ Flag Again

 

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News

‘Biggest Felony in American History’: Prosecutor’s Closing Argument Against Trump Praised

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A prosecutor in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s state prosecution of Donald Trump is being praised for his closing argument Tuesday by a top legal scholar who says the ex-president’s crime was “arguably the biggest felony in American history.”

Trump is on trial in lower Manhattan, facing 34 felony counts. Lawfare’s Anna Bower had summed up the case earlier on Tuesday: “Prosecutors allege that Trump falsified business records in order to commit or cover-up a conspiracy to promote his election to the Presidency by ‘unlawful means.'”

Calling his closing argument “devastating,” Harvard University Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe, a professor of law and top constitutional scholar, quoted New York prosecutor Josh Steinglass.

READ MORE: ‘Wildly Lawless’: Judge Cannon’s Removal Predicted by Top Legal Scholar

“This scheme could very well be what got President Trump elected,” Steinglass told the jury.

Professor Tribe then remarked: “Think this was a minor crime? Think again! It was arguably the biggest felony in American history. Certainly the most harmful.”

MSNBC legal contributor Katie Phang offered some background.

Referring to AMI, then the parent company of the National Enquirer, she writes:

“STEINGLASS: Once AMI purchased stories on a candidate’s behalf and in coordination with the campaign, those purchases became unlawful campaign contributions. I suggest to you that the value of this corrupt bargain at the Trump Tower meeting cannot be overstated. It turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions ever made…. ‘This scheme, cooked up by these men…could very well be what got President Trump elected…'”

READ MORE: Supreme Court ‘Puppetmaster’ Slammed Over Report He’s Flying Alito’s ‘Theocratic’ Flag Again

 

 

 

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News

‘Wildly Lawless’: Judge Cannon’s Removal Predicted by Top Legal Scholar

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U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon will be removed from overseeing the trial in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s Espionage Act case against Donald Trump, predicts a top constitutional scholar who is calling her rejection of an urgent request from federal prosecutors to place additional restrictions on the ex-president “wildly lawless,” and a “smoking gun.”

Last week Donald Trump, his campaign, and almost immediately his supporters, falsely claimed President Joe Biden had tried to assassinate the ex-president in 2022 when FBI agents executed a legal and lawful search warrant on Mar-a-Lago. Trump had been storing well over 1000 White House items he had taken, including hundreds of classified documents, at his Florida residence and resort. Among those were some of the nation’s top nuclear secrets.

In a fundraising email one week ago Trump’s campaign claimed, “Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.” Trump was out of state when the FBI entered Mar-a-Lago. Federal agents had conferred with Secret Service, and had planned for the search warrant to be executed when the ex-president was not at the club.

READ MORE: ‘The State is Not God’: DeSantis Paid Educators to Teach ‘Christian Nationalism’ Report Says

“Cannon’s wildly lawless rejection of Special Counsel Smith’s clearly correct request for a gag order against fake and dangerous claims that the FBI was ordered to assassinate him is good news,” declared University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Laurence Tribe, a professor of law and top constitutional scholar who wrote a major textbook on the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s the smoking gun that will finally lead to her removal from the stolen secrets case,” Professor Tribe added.

Not responding to the substance of the Special Counsel’s request to order the ex-president to not make any statements that could be dangerous to law enforcement, Judge Cannon instead rejected the motion on the grounds Smith’s attorneys should have conferred with Trump’s attorneys before making the request, as ABC News reports.

“The Government moves to modify defendant Donald J. Trump’s conditions of release, to make clear that he may not make statements that pose a significant, imminent, and foreseeable danger to law enforcement agents participating in the investigation and prosecution of this case,” federal prosecutors wrote in the filing that Judge Cannon rejected.

READ MORE: Supreme Court ‘Puppetmaster’ Slammed Over Report He’s Flying Alito’s ‘Theocratic’ Flag Again

While the Special Counsel’s prosecutors did confer with Trump’s attorney, Judge Cannon claimed their efforts were “wholly lacking in substance and professional courtesy,” according to ABC News. “Trump’s lawyers argued that the special counsel violated Local Rule 88.9, which says both parties must ‘meet and confer’ before flings motions so the court and the parties’ time is used efficiently. In a filing Monday, Trump’s lawyers asked Cannon to strike the special counsel’s request and impose sanctions on any prosecutors involved in filing their motion.”

Trump’s attorney had wanted to delay any meeting to confer over the issue until Monday, but federal prosecutors, concerned about Trump’s recent remarks, said they could not wait.

“As we also tried to explain earlier, our judgment was that the situation your client has created necessitated a prompt request for relief that could not wait the weekend to file,” Special Counsel prosecutor David Harbach told Trump’s lawyers via email, according to ABC News. “We understand your position and represented to the court that you do not believe the government has engaged in adequate conferral here.”

READ MORE: Trump’s Scheme for Absolute Immunity From State Prosecutions Forever: Report

 

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