As we close out Pride month and honor LGBTQ history, let’s celebrate the many beautiful forms family can take and ensure that LGBTQ working families can access the legal protections they need to care for all their loved ones. For many people, especially those in the LGBTQIA+ community, family is found, created, and chosen. Following community feedback on the accessibility of the Paid Family and Medical Leave program, EOI and coalition partners fought for a crucial update to recognize different family structures. Workers can now take family leave to care for anyone who relies on them for care regardless of blood or legal ties, making the program more accessible to all, especially chosen families. We are proud at EOI to have fought hard alongside our coalition partners to ensure ALL of Washington’s working families can access paid leave.
EOI community member, Laura Beal, shared her firsthand experience supporting chosen family during a crisis. “In 2002, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with AIDS,” she shares. “At the time I lived with two good friends that were like family to me. The three of us moved him into our home, and we had two great years with him before he got really sick. He asked us to take him through his end-of-life. He didn’t want to go home and be the stepbrother dying of AIDS. We were his home. We were his family.”
Had Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program and this expansion been in place, Laura could have wholly focused on supporting her loved one through his end-of-life without having to worrying about how she’d pay the bills. “Everyone deserves care from a loved one during difficult times. I believe our government has an obligation to keep its citizens out of poverty just for getting sick, having a child, or the process of a loved one dying.” Today, chosen families in Washington have the same access to Paid Family and Medical Leave as blood or legal family.
We are grateful to the community members who shared their experiences with us as we researched the limitations of the Paid Family and Medical Leave program and the policy fixes needed to make it more equitable. As a result of our collective advocacy, Washington’s chosen families now have access to this life-saving benefit and can take the time they need to care for each other when sick. Washingtonians like Laura deserve the right to be there when their family, chosen or not, need them most without risking their economic stability. But the fight doesn’t stop in our state. We must continue to advocate for supportive policies like Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days that recognize families of all forms, and protect LGBTQ access to these vital benefits. Providing peace of mind during times of crisis takes us one step closer to an economy of care.
Listen to Laura’s powerful story below
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