Today the Department of Labor (DOL) issued its Final Rule  revising the definition of “spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Final Rule adopts a “place of celebration” rule, consistent with the current DOL interpretation in the context of other federal laws.   Under this “celebration” rule, an employee may take FMLA leave to care for an ill same-sex spouse even if they couple resides in a state that does not permit or recognize their marriage, as long as they were married in a jurisdiction that allowed their marriage.  The new definition includes individuals in lawfully recognized same-sex and 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 state.

The DOL has issued a number of FAQs explaining the change.

The effective date for the final rule is March 27, 2015.