Another Supreme Court Decision Impacts the Cancer Community!

In March, we posted about new changes to the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is a federal law that allows employees to take time off from work because of their own serious medical condition; to care for a spouse, a parent, or a child; or for certain military family leave.

Click here to view the Triage Cancer Fact Sheet on the FMLA. The U.S. Department of Labor expanded the FMLA by changing the definition of spouse to include individuals who are in legal same-sex marriages, common law marriages, and marriages that were validly entered into outside of the U.S., if they could have been entered into in at least one U.S. state.

Later that month, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, in Texas v. United States, issued a preliminary injunction with respect to the new definition of “spouse” under the FMLA. The effect of this decision, was that the new definition of spouse was put on hold.

Earlier during the year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case about the legality of same-sex marriage. That Supreme Court release their decision last Friday, in a 5-4 ruling, which requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states. This landmark ruling has received much media attention, but it also has an impact on the cancer community.

While we are still awaiting official updates, same sex couples now have access to a plethora of new protections and benefits, including:

  • Hospital visitation and medical decision making (if a spouse is unable to make decisions for themselves)
  • Social Security benefits
  • Inheritance in the absence of a will
  • Filing taxes

While these new benefits will certainly positively impact the LGBT cancer community, there is still no federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing, or public accommodations. Less than half the states have state laws that provide some of these protections.

We will have to wait and see how the courts handle these other issues in the future.

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