Wal-Mart Counts Some Same-Sex Couples As 'Immediate Family Members'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A homosexual advocacy group is applauding Wal-Mart, a company more often vilified than praised by liberals, for including same-sex couples in its new definition of "immediate family."

The Human Rights Campaign said Wal-Mart defined "immediate family" in a conflict-of-interest policy it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week.

That policy says Wal-Mart employees may not use confidential information they get on the job for their own benefit or for the benefit of their "immediate family members."

According to Wal-Mart's policy, "Immediate family members include (whether by birth, adoption, marriage or Domestic Partnership or Civil Union, if recognized by your state or other local law) your spouse, children, parents, siblings, mothers and fathers-in-law, sons and daughters-in-law and brothers and sisters-in-law."

"We hope that with equal responsibility come equal benefits," said Daryl Herrschaft, deputy director of the Human Rights Commission's workplace project.

"We are encouraged by this sign showing America's heartland employer understands same-sex couples share the responsibilities that come with being a family. It's only appropriate for these families to also receive the same benefits as others."

The Human Rights Commission sees Wal-Mart's expanded definition of "immediate family" as a first step. It said it will continue pressing Wal-Mart and other companies to expand workplace benefits (health care, medical leave, etc.) to same-sex couples.

According to HRC, 228 Fortune 500 companies (45 percent) offer healthcare benefits to employees' same-sex domestic partners or spouses. Wal-Mart is not among them; but Wal-Mart competitors Costco Wholesale, Best Buy and Home Depot do offer domestic partner health benefits, HRC said.

In July 2003, Wal-Mart expanded its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.

"Every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employee deserves to be judged by the job they do, not who they are," said Herrschaft.

We urge Wal-Mart and other companies to add protections for transgender employees so that no employee is at risk for losing their livelihood for reasons that have nothing to do with their work."