hugging-baby.jpgWhile the nation marvels at California’s Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay marriage, I thought it was a good time to bring up a past ground-breaking achievement by the Golden State — paid family leave.

In 2002, California was the first state to approve paid family leave, and since Washington State and New Jersey have followed suit. No other states have mandated paid family leave.

There are so many workers in this country that can’t take off, or suffer economic hardship, when they need to be away from work to care for a new born, or an ailing parent. And we’re not talking about employees who decide they want to take months off, but those that just need a few weeks to deal with a family situation.

Most of the laws now on the books in these progressive states call for up to six weeks of paid time off, and in most cases, these programs are funded by the employees themselves that pay into a pot to cover the leave, just like they chip in for unemployment insurance.

Many people I talk to think paid family leave will end up benefitting only women who take time off right after they give birth or who typically end up having to care for sick family members. But I’m here to tell you that many of the individuals I’ve interviewed recently, which I’ll be profiling in my column on MSNBC.com in the coming weeks, have been men.

One journalist in California told me he needed to take time off to help care for his father with Alzheimer’s. Another worker there decided he needed a few weeks to attend to his fatherly duties when his daughter was born.

Oregon and New York will be considering the passage of their own paid family leave laws next year. Every state needs to follow California’s lead.

Folks, this is about all of us. It’s about being an enlightened society that understands the importance of family and the curve balls that life too often throws at us.

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