AMA Backs Family Leave for LGBTQ Caregivers

Marcia Frellick

June 13, 2018

Caregivers who are members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community should be included in the Family and Medical Leave Act, according to a policy adopted here at the American Medical Association (AMA) 2018 Annual Meeting.

"Physicians understand the day-to-day challenges and rewards for individuals who are helping to care for a loved one who needs help," AMA President-Elect Patrice Harris, MD, said in a news release. "The new AMA policy signals that physicians support the need and benefit of policies for family and medical leave that are inclusive of LGBTQ workers."

Currently, the act requires that employers with 50 or more employees allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually, so that workers can care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition or take time off for personal health matters.

The AMA policy advocates for the inclusion of any person related by blood or affinity whose relationship with the employee is equivalent to family.

"The ability to care for loved ones in a time of illness or injury is vital for the support of our patients and an important benefit for the American workforce," said Jeremy Toler, MD, delegate for GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality (previously known as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association).

"GLMA applauds the AMA in its adoption of policy that supports extending that benefit beyond the confines of immediate family," he told Medscape Medical News.

Another policy adopted on Monday calls for a change in housing policies at correctional facilities so that transgender prisoners can be incarcerated in accordance with their affirmed gender status, rather than automatically being assigned by their sex at birth.

Transgender in Prison

These housing assignments should be made regardless of genitalia, chromosomal makeup, hormonal treatment, or non-, pre-, or postoperative status, according to the policy. People testifying at committee hearings on Sunday noted that rates of incarceration are disproportionately higher in the transgender population than in the general population, and that transgender people experience disproportionately higher levels of violence during incarceration.

"The problem facing the safety and health of transgender prisoners is severe and well documented," Harris explained. "Transgender prisoners are disproportionately the victims of sexual assault, suffering higher rates of sexual assault than general-population inmates. The new AMA policy acknowledges that the increased rate of violence largely stems from transgender prisoners being housed based on their birth sex, not according to their affirmed gender."

The AMA policy adds that "facilities housing transgender prisoners shall not be a form of administrative segregation or solitary confinement," a news release states.

"Over the 5 years in which GLMA has been a member of the AMA House of Delegates, we have seen a significant increase in LGBTQ health issues that come before this organization," said Toler. "We have been overwhelmed by the support and advocacy for LGBTQ health that is repeatedly shown by the state and specialty societies represented in the AMA House of Delegates, as well as the AMA leadership."

On Tuesday, the House of Delegates adopted a policy to establish a Specialty Section Council on LGBTQ Health.

Toler and Harris have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Medical Association (AMA) 2018 Annual Meeting. Presented June 11, 2018.

Follow Medscape on Twitter @Medscape and Marcia Frellick @mfrellick

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