QUEER VOICES
09/10/2013 09:35 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Gay-Friendly Companies: The 7 Most Surprising

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By Amanda Chatel for YourTango.com

In a move that's quite shocking, considering their history with ripping off their employees in one way or another, Walmart has decided to join 2013 and is now offering health benefits to domestic partners of their employees. Yes, that's right; now same-sex couples can reap exactly what straight partners have been getting for years. Evolution is great.

Although it's been regarded as a historic move (and it is!), since it is Walmart after all, it should be noted that it's actually about dollars and cents. As Walmart's senior vice president Sally Welborn explained in a letter to the management of the retail stores:

It's a business decision, not a moral or political decision. We operate in 50 states, hundreds of municipalities and Puerto Rico, and as clarified under the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), each of these states are developing different definitions of marriage, domestic partner, civil union, etc. By developing a single definition for all Walmart associates in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, we are able to ensure consistency for associates across our markets.

The Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as "ObamaCare") inextricably linked health insurance with employment. As such, for our associates for whom we offer health insurance, we want to be sure we are providing access to as many individuals and their families as possible.

Given the diverse world we live in today, a comprehensive benefit package that includes domestic partner benefits appeals to the contemporary workforce. Many companies, including most of our competitors, already offer spouse/partner benefits to their employees. Of 30 retail competitors, all but two (Publix and Stop and Shop union plan) provide either same- or opposite-sex domestic partner coverage.

Basically, it's not so much about supporting the LBGT community, as much as they want to save face in a changing world. However, if our gay and lesbian friends are getting the benefits they deserve, who are we to nitpick? And having such a big company, especially one that is seemingly unprogressive (they only sell censored music) in many ways, is hopefully what so many other companies need to get themselves in gear and do what’s right.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, who keeps their eyes on these things, 62 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer benefits to the domestic partners of their employees. So who else is on that list?

1. Starbucks
Not only does the company offer benefits for same-sex partners, but last year it announced its support of gay marriage. The National Organization for Marriage, who has yet to get the memo of "live and let live" immediately launched a boycott. Although the first quarter after the announcement sales weren't exactly up to par, Starbucks didn't back down. Unlike Walmart who's adamant about their decision being a business one, Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz said otherwise: "It is not an economic decision to me. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds."

2. The Village Voice
The iconic newspaper was launched by Norman Mailer and a few others in 1955 from a two-bedroom apartment in New York City's Greenwich Village. Always ahead of their time, the Voice was the very first privately owned company to offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. That was in 1982; it's sad that so many companies haven't taken a cue (and a clue) from this company who broke the ranks over 30 years ago.

3. Google
Always known for their diversity and quirky ways of running a company, Google is so gay friendly that it's going above and beyond. Not only do they offer benefits for the partners of same-sex couples, but a policy that went into effect in 2010, "will be compensating employees for taxes paid on domestic partners' health benefits — but only if they're gay."

4. Men’s Wearhouse
You've seen the commercials: the mustached man comes on at the end to tell the consumer, "You’ll love the way you look. I guarantee it." Well, they guarantee a lot of things. Despite being based in Texas, a state notoriously known for squashing the rights of their residents, Men's Wearhouse not only offers benefits for domestic partnerships, but after five years, all employees get an automatic three weeks paid vacation. Sign me up!

5. General Mills
This company is winning all over the place. In addition to the adorable Cheerios commercial that featured an interracial couple that created a firestorm from racists everywhere, acceptance, in all its forms, is the name of the game at General Mills who also offers benefits to same-sex partners.

6. American Express
I’ve had a beef with American Express since I realized that they have a fancy black AmEx that I'll probably never get my hands on. However, if I were their employee, I'd probably get better treatment. The huge credit card company offers benefits for same-sex partners, and also has a turnover rate of only 7 percent for full-timers. See? They totally treat their employees like royalty.

7. Marriott International
With hotels all over the world, Marriott knows the best way to succeed with employees and patrons is to keep up with times. Yep, this one is on the list, too.

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This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: "7 Companies You Didn't Know Were Gay-Friendly"

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