Another step forward on gay rights

ANOTHER STEP FORWARD ON GAY RIGHTS…. The pace hasn’t always kept up with the hopes of supporters, but it’s hard not to notice that the Obama administration’s record on advances in gay rights keeps improving.

President Obama will soon expand the rights of gay workers by allowing them to take family and medical leave to care for sick or newborn children of same-sex partners, administration officials said Monday.

The policy will be set forth in a ruling to be issued Wednesday by the Labor Department’s wage and hour division, the officials said.

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.”

The new ruling indicates that an employee in a same-sex relationship can qualify for leave to care for the child of his or her partner, even if the worker has not legally adopted the child.

The Obama administration’s move on this follows legislative progress on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” hospital visitation rights, a package of domestic partnership benefits for federal workers, lifting the travel/immigration ban on those with HIV/AIDS, expanded hate-crime laws, addressing the diplomatic passport issue, ordering the Federal Housing Authority to no longer consider the sexual orientation of applicants on loans, expanding the Census to include the number of people who report being in a same-sex relationship, and endorsing the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and making the Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act law.

There have also been more symbolic gestures, including the White House hosting an event to honor the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Tonight, Obama will host a Gay and Lesbian Pride Month event at the White House for the second year in a row, and over the weekend, in his Father’s Day statement, the president noted that “nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a stepfather, a grandfather, or caring guardian.”

For religious right groups hoping to label Obama our “first gay president,” the criticism will likely get more intense.