By Angela D. Giampolo
On Friday, ExxonMobil announced that it will extend benefits to spouses of its U.S. workers in same-sex marriages for the first time, as of Oct. 1. This is a sweeping reversal by one of the world’s top companies, following a landmark Supreme Court ruling where a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had defined marriage as between a man and a woman, was struck down.
Before Friday’s announcement, ExxonMobil had recognized gay marriages in some 30 countries around the world where it operates, but it had not recognized same-sex marriages from U.S. states that allow them. ExxonMobil successfully avoided extending the gay marriage benefits in the United States, saying its policies were governed by federal laws.
Though many U.S. corporations, especially progressive ones like Campbell Soup, Apple and Subaru,, have long offered domestic partner benefits to gay couples, the step at ExxonMobil — the biggest publicly traded oil company — was heralded as especially significant for a company that has resisted repeated calls for change.
Despite their consistent position at the top of the Fortune 500, they go against the grain in terms of its EEO policies. Eighty-eight percent of Fortune 500 companies have comprehensive non-discrimination policies; ExxonMobil is not among them. Previously, it had made statements claiming its policy already prohibits any kind of discrimination, as if that should suffice. ExxonMobil is currently facing a same-sex discrimination lawsuit in Illinois.
Among other LGBT organizations, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has blasted ExxonMobil many times. HRC President Chad Griffin said, “No company has proven itself a worse corporate citizen by betraying its LGBT employees time and again than ExxonMobil.” This was announced at the time of HRC’s first ever boycott when ExxonMobil received the first ever, negative score in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. ExxonMobil earned a negative score for refusing to enter sexual orientation and gender identity into their EEO policies and scrapping Mobil’s anti-discrimination policy and partner benefits after Mobil was acquired in their 1999 merger. While ExxonMobil was rated at -25, competitors like Chevron, Shell, and BP held indexes of 85 and higher. HRC praised ExxonMobil’s extension of benefits to spouses in same-sex unions as a step in the right direction, but the civil rights organization croons that ExxonMobil still does not provide specific anti-discrimination protections to LGBT workers.