Megaretailer Walmart is known for its restrictive policies regarding health insurance coverage, but the chain will be covering one often overlooked segment of the population — the same-sex partners of qualifying employees.
Walmart’s same-sex partner benefit plans were considered a big game changer when they were revealed today. Numerous aspects of the decision made it notable, one of those being the purported tendency of the retailer to cut corners on employee benefit packages.
Another reason Walmart’s decision to cover gay partners of associates is making waves is the still tentative acceptance status of same-sex relationships not only in American culture, but as far as aspects such as health insurance coverage. While many Americans support marriage equality and extending equal civil rights to their gay neighbors, a vocal number do not — and will often boycott, protest, or otherwise sanction companies that do so.
Walmart explained the move as one designed to create consistency, explaining via spokesman David Tovar:
“Since we operate in all 50 states, we thought it was important to develop a single definition for all Wal-Mart associates in the U.S.”
Yahoo reports that the details of Walmart’s extension of health benefits to same-sex partners followed rulings legally mandating the circumstance in some states in which the retailer operates:
“Wal-Mart’s extension of health insurance to domestic partners comes after the U.S. Supreme Court in June forced the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal. The Supreme Court also paved the way for same-sex marriage in California… Employees’ domestic partners can be covered if they are legal spouses, not legally separated; or a domestic partner of same or opposite gender in an ongoing, exclusive relationship similar to marriage for at least 12 months with the intention to continue sharing a household indefinitely, he said.”
Walmart’s gay partner benefits are set for 2014 eligibility after the October to November enrollment period passes.