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By Timothy M. Phelps, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will announce Friday that it plans to make same-sex spouses eligible for emergency family leave to care for their partners regardless of whether the state in which they live recognizes their marriages.

The Department of Labor will issue a proposed rule making clear that the right to time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act is valid for all legally married couples, according to a White House official who asked for anonymity because the news was not yet official.

The official said the Justice Department will also announce that it has completed its review of the impact on federal laws of last year’s Supreme Court decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

That review is expected to conclude that in almost all instances, federal benefits will be provided to same-sex couples regardless of where they live. In most cases, federal laws will be interpreted so that the law in which a marriage was celebrated determines spousal benefits, not the law of the state in which the couple reside.

The administration has already announced that residency is not an issue for federal health and pension benefits, income taxes, benefits for people working for the Defense Department, insurance, and other issues.

But the administration will call on Congress to pass legislation in some areas where a change in the law is required. In the past, administration officials have said that new laws might be required to make Social Security and veterans benefits available to same-sex couples in all 50 states.

Advocates for gay rights have been extremely pleased by the Obama administration’s record on the issue. In addition to the expansion of benefits, the administration announced Monday that Obama plans to sign an executive order that would forbid federal contractors from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation.

Photo: Mandi Wright via Detroit Free Press/MCT

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Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

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