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Exxon Gets Liberal with Same-Sex Benefits

Oil giant ExxonMobil—long criticized for its policies on gay and lesbian workers—has turned a new policy leaf in the liberal direction by extending employee benefits to married , same-sex couples.

Effective as of 1 October,  if a gay employee has been married in a state or country in which such marriage is legal, his or her spouse will be eligible for benefits from Exxon starting next year. Benefit entitlements will be the same as those for straight couples.

The company currently extends benefits to some 77,000 workers and retirees in the US, and its managers say the move was a simple measure on trend with national legislation.

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Currently facing a same-sex discrimination lawsuit in Illinois, the new benefits policy will bring ExxonMobil in line with federal agencies, including Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department.

“Spousal eligibility in our US benefit plans has been and continues to be governed by the federal definition of marriage and spouse,” the company said in a statement. It also said that it provided benefits to same-sex spouses in 30 countries outside the US.

The federal government itself has begun to issue rule changes and guidance on the treatment of same-sex couple following a landmark Supreme Court decision in June to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Exxon’s move will boost its standing among human rights advocates, who have consistently ranked the company one of the worst in terms of corporate equality.

But the euphoria is cautious.  The Human Rights Campaign still foresees a low rating on the corporate equality index for ExxonMobil.

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“My response is tempered,” Deena Fidas of HRC told reporters. “These are not domestic partner benefits. The reality is still ExxonMobil has consistently refused to amend their equal opportunity policy.”

As of the beginning of this year, 89% of U.S. companies provide health benefits to same-sex couples.

Advocates of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, known as LGBT, heralded the move as a victory.

On the other side of the divide, conservative groups are criticizing the move and calling upon the shareholders to speak out. At the latest shareholders’ meeting, 81% of them had voted against awarding benefits based on same-sex behavior.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com




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