LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - It's been an important year for gay rights, one that saw the US Supreme Court rule that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages in states where they are legal.
Now, more businesses are recognizing same-sex marriages and partnerships, including a major Arkansas company.
According to Lance Turner of Arkansas Business, Wal-Mart is now extending employment benefits to same-sex couples. Starting Jan. 1, Wal-Mart will join a majority of Fortune 500 companies that offer health benefits to its U.S. workers' domestic partners, including same-sex couples.
While many companies have been doing this for years, gay rights advocates and human resources professionals think that Wal-Mart, the largest private employer with 1.3 million workers in the U.S., moving ahead with these benefits could cause other companies that haven't offered the benefits to do so.
Wal-Mart had previously barred any kind of workplace discrimination solely on the basis of one's sexual orientation -- a rare thing for an employer to do. In 2011, it added gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy.
In some ways, this is to help Wal-Mart make sure it can compete for the best employees. And that's been very important for Wal-Mart, particularly in Silicon Valley in California, for example, a place that's decidedly more liberal about social issues than Arkansas.
Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock tells us it's been offering benefits to domestic partners for more than a decade. Dillard's, J.B. Hunt, Murphy Oil and Tyson Foods all declined to comment on the matter, but the 2013 Corporate Equality Index shows that none of those companies offer health benefits to their workers' partners.
You can read the complete story right now at ArkansasBusiness.com and it's linked to our site at THV11.com