Wal-Mart: Immediate Family Includes Same-Sex Partners

Jan 28, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The last Presidential election and races for local and state offices was said to have been decided, in part, by people turning out to vote for candidates, largely Republican, who opposed legalizing marriage or civil unions for same-sex partners. Every referendum on the ballot that would have authorized such partnerships was defeated.

No retailer has been more closely identified with the conservative values of America than Wal-Mart. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you will find a copy of The Advocate or other publication written for gay and lesbian readers on the shelf of your local Wal-Mart.

What you would find, however, if such information could be made public without the accompanying homophobic hysteria that usually follows, is that a good number of the associates working in the retailer’s stores are gay or lesbian.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier in the week, Wal-Mart acknowledged as much when it expanded the company’s definition of “immediate family” to include civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

The company did not issue a statement on its position in support of or against legalizing same-sex partnerships.

Wal-Mart spokesperson, Gus Whitcomb, told the Associated Press the company updated its ethics statement to bring it into compliance with individual state laws that have expanded the definition of immediate family.

Daryl Herrschaft, deputy director of the WorkNet program for the gay and lesbian advocacy group The Human Rights Campaign said, “We are encouraged by this sign showing America’s heartland employer understands same-sex couples share the responsibilities that come with being a family.”

Moderator’s Comment: What will be the reaction of Wal-Mart supporters on its decision to expand its definition of immediate family? Will it have any
bottom line impact for the company?

A piece in the Arizona Republic linked to in yesterday’s RW headlines concluded that most consumers don’t care about the criticism Wal-Mart has gotten
for its employee compensation and other practices as long as prices stay low in the store. We expect that some of the Wal-Mart faithful won’t be happy about this decision but
that won’t stop them from shopping in the company’s stores or on its Web site.

George Anderson – Moderator

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