In 2019, Oregon made an incredible step forward in recognizing the importance of all families when it passed the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, one of the major efforts of the Fair Shot for All coalition. As part of this coalition, Basic Rights Oregon joined with community groups and racial and gender justice organizations to ensure that no one, no matter who they love or who’s part of their family, has to choose between caring for their loved ones and keeping their job.
One of the most important parts of the act is that it specifically recognizes families that are blood or affinity. This means that, for many of us in the LGBTQ community who are in relationships which fall outside of the typical nuclear family, we have the ability to take leave after our partner has surgery or we adopt a child.
Chosen family means everything
Nik Portela knows the importance of chosen family on a personal level. When he went through two very intense, but affirming, gender-related surgeries, he was told by his doctors that he would need someone to be with him at all times for a week, possibly more.
“Without my family, my chosen family, there’s no way any of my surgeries would’ve been possible. While I lived with my previous partner, she was out of the house at least 12 hours a day during the week, unable to take off from grad school or her internship, lest she not graduate,” Nik says. “She paired up with my best friend and they planned for months up to the day about how to best rearrange their schedules, their lives, to support me in my healing.”
Support when he needed it most
His best friend took off a week from her work so she could, along with Nik’s previous partner, help feed him, get him to the bathroom safely, redress his wounds, and support him through his healing process.
“There is no way I could’ve done that alone, and I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to. But I was lucky. Not everyone has the financial means or workplace flexibility to make this happen for themselves or the people in their life that they love and care for.”
That’s why the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act is so important for people like Nik and his best friend. Now, no matter the individual workplace policy, people have the opportunity to care for those closest to them without having to worry about their job.
“Our family’s built by love”
Amy Nash-Kille also embraces the new legislation that includes more affirming language around different family structures. Amy is in a polyfidelitous triad with David and Mark, which is an exclusive relationship as three people. Amy is a research manager, David is a software developer, and Mark is an HR professional. They’ve been together as three partners for more than a decade.
“We own our home together, have raised our children together, are planning for retirement together, and consider ourselves married in all ways except the official marriage certificate,” Amy says.” We have benefited from third-parent adoption in Oregon, allowing all three of us to be legal parents of our children, but most laws and structures are built for families that are led by couples.”
Amy, David, and Mark are unable to be on each other’s medical insurance plans and they don’t automatically have hospital visitation, survivor benefits, or any of the other benefits that come with legal marriage.
“We’ve jumped through a lot of hoops in terms of setting up coverage as three people instead of a couple to make sure we’re able to see each other in case of illness,” Amy explains. “The Paid Family Medical Leave Act in Oregon is appreciated because it’s one piece that we don’t have to try to figure out. Having the terminology that includes affinity makes a big difference for families like ours. As many Basic Rights Oregon supporters know – families are built by love. Our family certainly is.”