Activists Push for Comprehensive Gay Rights

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

While President Obama will expand leave-rights for gay workers this week, advocates criticise the piecemeal approach to reforms.

The Labor Department will announce Wednesday that businesses will have to extend unpaid leave for gay workers to care for children or loved ones - even if the worker has not legally adopted the child of his or her same-sex partner. This will come just after President Obama welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocates to a White House reception on Tuesday to celebrate June as “LGBT Pride Month.”

Under a 1993 law, people who work for a company with 50 or more employees are generally entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or for a spouse, son or daughter with “a serious health condition.”

It is the latest step in the White House's piece-by-piece strategy to extend rights for homosexuals, which has included signing hate crimes bill into law, expanding benefits for partners of State Department employees and working to upend the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy.

While the move seems likely to incite conservative Republicans and be popular with loyal Democrats, some gay activists have criticized the government's approach.

"We still need laws passed that achieve what these minimal efforts attempt to do piecemeal," Lane Hudson, a gay activist, told the Associated Press. "The little things that the Beltway crowd pays attention to - and the White House uses to say 'We're making so much progress' - that doesn't translate outside the Beltway."

Disappointment over the slow repeal process of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy - which prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military - has been a crux of gay criticism. A Gallup poll last month found 70 percent of American favor allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

That same poll, however, showed that 53 percent of those surveyed opposed legalizing gay marriage.

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