Walmart will step into line with most of America’s biggest companies by offering health insurance to same-sex partners of employees next year.
Among Fortune 500 companies, 62 percent already offer health benefits for domestic partners, Reuters says. Walmart announced the change to employees ahead of an enrollment period that begins in October. To qualify, employees’ partners must either be legal spouses or domestic partners in an exclusive relationship for at least a year.
Walmart employs more Americans than anyone except the federal government, and more than half of its 1.3 million workers get health care through the company, Reuters says. Worldwide, the total number of employees comes closer to 2.2 million, the Arkansas Times says, and as many as 88,000 are estimated to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
The company has a mixed record on gay rights. CEO Mike Duke supported an anti-gay adoption measure in Arkansas. Walmart joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in 2007, the Arkansas Times says. But it quickly backed out when a group called the Christian American Family Association threatened a Black Friday boycott. The company’s foundation makes donations to gay organizations including SAGE, Out & Equal, and the LGBT Bar Association.