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National

Wal-Mart To Offer Same-Sex Health Benefits

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And news from the world's biggest retailer: Wal-Mart says beginning next year, it will extend comprehensive medical benefits coverage to domestic and legally married same-sex partners.

Jacqueline Froelich from member station KUAF reports on why Wal-Mart made the change.

JACQUELINE FROELICH, BYLINE: Over the past decade, Wal-Mart expanded its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity for its 1.3 million U.S.-based employees. The company, though, never budged on providing health benefits for same-sex couples.

But after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act in June, Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove says the retailer changed its stance.

RANDY HARGROVE: Each of the states are developing different definitions of marriage, domestic partners, civil unions, so by developing a single definition for all of our associates, we believe we can give them the consistency across the markets that we operate.

FROELICH: The Wal-Mart memo says the decision was not based on morals or politics -but business.

HARGROVE: One of our tenets as an employer is respect for the individual, and this, you know, we're just falling in line, you know, with what we practice as a company every day.

FROELICH: And more companies will likely follow suit.

A new survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found three-quarters of organizations reacted positively to the U.S. Supreme Court DOMA ruling.

For NPR News, I'm Jacqueline Froelich in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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