It’s Ridiculous That Women Married To Women Have To Fight For ‘Paternity’ Leave
Same-sex marriage is a thing now, finally, in more than half of the USA. So why is the infrastructure for dealing with insurance, benefits, and medical leave for same sex couples still so out of date? The wheels of governmental progress can turn mighty slowly sometimes, but they’ve got nothing on the gummed-up, bent-rimmed wheels of bureaucracy.
Meg Curtis, who works at a university in liberal bastion Massachusetts – you know, the state that’s had legal same sex marriage for a decade now – writes about her struggle to get a clear set of guidelines for her medical leave when her wife gives birth to their first child. I would call her employer’s Human Resources department’s handling of the situation impressive, because I think it must be really hard to be this clueless about lesbians having a baby together. From the time Curtis got the ball rolling by contacting HR about taking time off for the arrival of the new baby, she had to deal with:
- Repeated confusion over her not being the one who’s pregnant (even while sitting in an HR rep’s office with the baby due in only a month) and multiple attempts to redirect her toward ‘maternity leave’ despite her repeated reminders about her unoccupied uterus.
- Conflicting information about how many sick days she was allowed to use: 12, because she was having a baby! 5, because she wasn’t having the baby herself! No, wait, 12 because it’s her wife having the baby!
- Not being informed of the existence of a paternity leave policy at all, despite that being what she originally asked for, until her wife was about to pop, and then having to apply for that, because ‘parental leave‘ apparently isn’t a thing that exists yet.
It sounds massively frustrating, and was probably fairly nerve-wracking as well, since Curtis only just received approval for her ‘paternity leave’. I’m glad Curtis and her partner did finally manage to wrangle approved time off from her employer, albeit none too soon before the baby is born, but it’s completely embarrassing on the university’s part that this was such a mess. And if things are this much of a hassle in Massachusetts, where marriage equality has already been around for a while, I can’t imagine what’s happening in the states who have only just gotten on board the Progress Train.
Employers in marriage equality states, get your act together. (And watch out, those of you in holdout states, because we’re coming for you next.) Same-sex couples are entitled to equal access to benefits, and part of that equal access entails not having to put in hours of detective work trying to figure out just how policies affect them, nor having to specially request the standard options that get automatically offered to different-sex couples. Yes, it’s great that marriage equality is enjoying such forward momentum right now, but the chime of wedding bells doesn’t mean we get to rest on our laurels: there’s plenty more work to do in terms of getting things right for same-sex couples.