Wal-Mart Health Benefits Move Seen As a Gay Rights Win

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 12:00 am  

Wal-Mart said health benefits to its U.S. workers’ domestic partners will start in January.

“Wal-Mart implemented workplace protection on the basis of sexual orientation,” she said. “In other words, Wal-Mart as a private employer did something that the federal law doesn’t do — they barred any kind of workplace discrimination solely on the basis of one’s sexual orientation.”

She also said that in 2011, Wal-Mart added gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy. “Again, this was something that is, and was, well ahead of lawmakers,” Fidas said. “It was a straightforward business decision to ensure that the company was keeping pace with trends among the Fortune 500.”

Elliott said he doesn’t anticipate Wal-Mart will be harmed for its move to provide benefits for its workers’ domestic partners. “Other companies have been doing this for years,” he said. “There’s been very, very little backlash.”

Wagoner, the Little Rock attorney who is challenging the constitutionality of Arkansas’ ban on same-sex marriage, said even if his case is successful, it won’t have an impact on Wal-Mart because the company already said it recognizes domestic partnerships.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act, in which Congress defined marriage for purposes of all federal laws to only include marriage of opposite-sex couples.

“The Supreme Court held that this law served no legitimate purpose other than targeting a certain class of people for unlawful discrimination based on sexual preference,” Wagoner wrote in his complaint, which was filed July 15.

Wagoner said that if his lawsuit is successful, it will affect those companies that don’t recognize same-sex marriage. Companies, then, “will have to treat these people the same as any other married couple,” he said.



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