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ExxonMobil will recognize employees' same-sex marriages

Exxon Mobil Corporation will begin offering benefits to all employee spouses regardless of sexual orientation, the company’s spokesman said Friday in a
Exxon Mobil to recognize same-sex marriage for benefits eligibility - Emma Margolin - 09/27/2013
An Exxon logo at a gas station in Dallas, Texas.

Exxon Mobil Corporation will begin offering benefits to all employee spouses regardless of sexual orientation, the company’s spokesman said Friday in a statement, following a Supreme Court ruling in June that cleared the way for federal agencies to recognize same-sex marriages.

“ExxonMobil will recognize all legal marriages for the purposes of eligibility in U.S. benefit plans to ensure consistency for employees across the country,” said Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Alan T. Jeffers on Friday. “The decision is consistent with the direction of most U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Treasury and the IRS. Legal marriages are determined by the laws of the state or country where the marriage took place.”

ExxonMobil said its standard for spousal eligibility would not change--that it “continues to be governed by the federal definition of marriage and spouse.” The company’s benefit plans cover 77,000 employees and retirees in the U.S., as well as same-sex spouses in 30 other countries, in accord with their national laws.

The benefits will be made available to same-sex spouses beginning Oct. 1, the Associated Press reports.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA,) permitting the U.S. government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that legally allow them. That decision opened the door for the IRS, state, and defense departments to similarly update their policies.

ExxonMobil's announcement comes amid intense pressure from advocates to incorporate protections for its LGBT employees into the company's equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy, as well as a lawsuit filed in Illinois, accusing the company of anti-gay bias. Prior to the 1999 merger, Mobil had a policy in place that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, and offered health care benefits to its employees’ same-sex partners.

Human Rights Campaign recently gave ExxonMobil its lowest ranking of any Fortune 500 company on this year's Corporate Equality Index. Despite Friday's announcement, the organization seems to still be standing by its rating.

"Granting health benefits to all married couples is a step toward equality but it is certainly not the kind of leadership exhibited by ExxonMobil's competitors," said Deena Fidas, director of the HRC Workplace Equality Program, in a statement. "There is no federal law protecting employees from discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity and ExxonMobil refuses to join the majority of their Fortune 500 colleagues in adopting their own such policies. One has to wonder, what good are benefits for your same-sex spouse if you risk being fired for disclosing your sexual orientation in order to access them?"

CNBC's Ryan Ruggiero contributed to this report.