A federal judge in Texas granted an injunction on Thursday that (for the time being) has stopped enforcement of the DOL’s final rule regarding the definition of spouse. Under the new rule, which was scheduled to take effect today, the FMLA would cover same-sex spouses if the marriage occurred in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage and allow those spouses to receive FMLA benefits even in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. According to the court, the public has “an abiding interest” in protecting state laws from “federal encroachment.”
Earlier this month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with the Attorneys General from the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska, filed suit in federal court in Texas asking that the court strike down the DOL’s final rule. “The Obama Administration’s attempt to force employers to recognize same-sex marriages would have put state agencies in the position of either violating Texas law or federal regulations,” Texas AG Paxton said in a statement Thursday.
In issuing its order, Judge Reed O’Connor barred the DOL from enforcing the rule pending a final ruling on the merits of the Texas AG’s claim. The ruling raises doubts about whether the DOL will enforce the new rule in the other states not covered by the court’s injunction. My fellow employment blogger, Jon Hyman, thinks the DOL will stand down until a definitive ruling is issued. While I can’t disagree with him, I am not so sure what the DOL will do. I have a call into the DOL now about how it will administer the new rule in light of this ruling and will update when/if I receive official word from the agency.
As another blogging friend, Robin Shea, points out, this entire issue might become moot once the Supreme Court renders a decision in the four same-sex marriage cases it has agreed to decide this term.