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Illinois treasurer signs EO extending family benefits to gay and lesbian employees in domestic partnerships

Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias signed an Executive Order providing gay and lesbian treasury department employees in domestic partnerships with the same family leave rights and benefits as married employees. The new office policy, which recognizes a domestic partnership as equivalent to marriage, allows gay and lesbian employees to take unpaid leave to care for a sick partner or relative or for the birth or adoption of a child. Giannoulias’ office is the first constitutional office or state agency to adopt such a policy, according to a statement. Current office policy allows employees involved in domestic partnerships to receive the same health benefits as married employees and their dependents. In the Treasurer’s Office, this new measure effectively extends the Family and Medical Leave Act to gay and lesbian employees in committed relationships. In addition, the new policy changes also allow gay and lesbian employees to take maternity/paternity leave and bereavement leave following the death of their partner or partner’s immediate family.

FMLA leave applies to married couples who are permitted to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick parent, spouse or child. But, according to FMLA, if an employee’s domestic partner or domestic partner’s child falls ill, he or she does not have legally protected leave. “Illinois is home to thousands of households with committed same-sex couples,” Giannoulias said. “But when a crisis occurs, these couples that own and live in the same home and emotionally and financially depend on one another do not have the same rights as married couples. We should not deny same-sex domestic couples those same rights.” Giannoulias believes this step will make the state more competitive with private sector employers, many of which already offer such benefits to their employees