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political notebook

Obama favors sick leave for gay couples

President Obama.

AP/file 2014

President Obama.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will work to ensure that gay and lesbian Americans are eligible to take leave from their jobs to care for a same-sex spouse, regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes gay marriage, the White House said Friday.

President Obama is directing the Labor Department to start drafting rules making clear that the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to same-sex couples, allowing gay and lesbian employees to take unpaid leave to care for a sick spouse regardless of where they live. The move comes three years after the Obama administration stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which lets states refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.

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The White House is promoting the move as part of Obama’s push to expand protections for gays and lesbians by allowing same-sex couples to take advantage of the same federal benefits available to married heterosexual couples.

House OK’s defense bill that halts Guantanamo transfers WASHINGTON — In an election-year challenge to President Obama, the Republican-led House overwhelmingly approved a $570 billion defense bill that halts any Guantanamo transfers for a year amid the furor over the American-for-Taliban swap and pulls back on government spying.

The vote Friday was 340 to 73 for the measure that provides money for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, personnel, ships, and aircraft.

Weeks after the prisoner exchange, Republicans railed against Obama’s decision to trade five Taliban leaders who had been held at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a decade for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a captive for five years in Afghanistan.

Leading Republicans vow to fight ‘spiritual crisis’

WASHINGTON — Describing a nation ‘‘in a full-blown spiritual crisis,’’ leading Republicans on Friday vowed to fight against abortion rights and protect the role of faith in public life as they courted religious conservatives with an eye on the 2016 presidential contest.

‘‘I will stand up for unborn children as long as I’m privileged to be in office,’’ Kentucky Senator Rand Paul declared while addressing the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group led by longtime Christian activist Ralph Reed hosting its annual conference in Washington.

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