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The announcement was prompted by the US Supreme Court decision this summer to strike down a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
After years of being slapped around by gay rights groups over its employee policies, Exxon Mobil has finally fallen into line with corporate giants such as Apple by extending health benefits to legally married same-sex couples in the US.
Friday’s announcement was prompted by the US Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down part of the Defense of Marriage Act that had allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in another state.
From next month, Exxon said it would recognize “all legal marriages.” That means if a homosexual employee in the US was married in a state or country where same-sex marriage is allowed, their spouse will be eligible for health care benefits.
US government agencies have been offering benefits to same-sex couples for several months, while Wal-Mart Stores is one of the latest corporate leaders to widen its health insurance policy to include gay spouses.
Exxon said the move reflected the Supreme Court's decision, rather than a change of heart at the oil giant.
"We have made no change in the definition of eligibility for our US benefit plans. Spousal eligibility in our US benefit plans has been and continues to be governed by the federal definition of marriage and spouse," Exxon said in a statement.
Gay rights groups welcomed the decision.
"After years of stubbornly refusing, we commend Exxon for joining the majority of the Fortune 500 business leaders that already treat gay and lesbian married couples equally under employee benefit plans," Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said in a statement.
"It's a shame Exxon waited until after the Labor Department issued official guidance explaining that their old policy does not comply with American law, and now it's time to move forward."
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