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Wal-Mart To Offer Same-Sex Health Benefits


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.

Jacqueline Froelich is an investigative journalist and has been a news producer for KUAF National Public Radio since 1998. She covers politics, the environment, energy, business, education, history, race and culture. Her radio segments have been nationally syndicated. She is also a station-based national correspondent for NPR in Washington DC., and recipient of eight national and state broadcast awards.