LGBTQI+ Families Need Paid Family Leave Too

Family Equality works to create access to essential resources that lesbian, gay,  bisexual, trans, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people need to grow and support their families. Paid family and medical leave are some of these critical supports.

Recent high-profile stories—like those shared by new LGBTQ+ adoptive parents, Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten—and growing momentum for the Build Back Better plan puts a spotlight on the importance of paid family and medical leave for all families, no matter how they formed, where they live, or what they look like. 

This conversation is long overdue. 

In the United States, taking time off of work to care for ourselves, our children, and our families is often framed as a luxury, rather than the basic necessity that it is. For LGBTQI+ working families—particularly those who are also BIPOC and lower-income—compounding factors such as medical and institutional barriers to family formation, widespread experiences of discrimination, and higher rates of poverty and unemployment overall often make this fundamental need even less accessible.
Despite these current barriers, all families and people deserve meaningful access to universal, comprehensive, and inclusive paid medical and family leave. Our communities desperately need it.

Accessing Paid Family or Medical Leave Through Your Employer

Over one-third of working LGBTQI+ adults report not having access to paid family or medical leave through their employer. In a nationally representative survey, less than half of the respondents reported that their employer’s policies covered new parents of all genders equally. Only half said that the policies are not equally inclusive of the many LGBTQI+ paths to parenthood either.

And even when LGBTQI+ people and families do have access to paid and medical leave through employers, they are often unable to access it fully.

It Takes a Village

LGBTQI+ families often rely on friends and chosen family for a range of basic needs and supports. From adoption to assisted reproductive technology, blended families to chosen families, the tapestry of our families is as beautiful as it is diverse. When we limit paid family leave to immediate family alone—or to only those who give birth—we leave out many LGBTQI+ people. 

In the Build Back Better plan, the Ways and Means Committee’s definition of family for “paid family and medical leave” includes chosen family. This is vital, as the plan’s broadened definition supports the many LGBTQI+ people who rely on their chosen family for caregiving support. In fact, one-third of LGBTQI+ people report that they would be very likely to rely on friends or chosen family members for support when experiencing a “health-related need” and 63% of respondents who were working reported having been called on for support by a close friend or chosen family member experiencing a health-related need.  The federal government has used a family definition that includes chosen family for more than fifty years for its own workforce’s right to workplace leave. It’s time to extend this to all workers.

What the Build Back Better Plan Can Do for Our Families

Paid family and medical leave is an essential part of creating a more equitable world for LGBTQI+ working people and families. Fortunately, if passed, the Ways and Means Committee’s Build Back Better paid leave plan will help to ensure that all workers receive a meaningful number of weeks of paid leave, and it will replace most of their wages—ensuring that working individuals in low-wage jobs can benefit from the program. In addition, the plan includes enforcement of nondiscrimination requirements as well as robust public education and outreach to all families. With all these program elements in place, workers will have the time necessary to bond with a new child, care for a loved one, find safety from assault or domestic violence, heal from serious illness, and mourn the loss of a loved one. 

It’s time to push forward meaningful solutions, create more economic stability for working families, and address the unique needs of LGBTQI+ families.

How You Can Help

The bold solutions proposed in Build Back Better plan will help all families survive and thrive—but we need your help to get this plan enacted! Please Share YOUR story on challenges your family has faced in taking needed leave to grow your family and care for family members, including chosen family.

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Tell Congress to Support LGBTQ+ Families with #BuildBackBetter Legislation with inclusive paid leave!

Urge your Congressmembers to fight LGBTQ+ poverty with comprehensive solutions!


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