Publix Bravely Takes Pro-Gay Stance at Last Possible Moment

Publix Bravely Takes Pro-Gay Stance at Last Possible Moment
Photo: Mike Kalasnik | WikiCommons CC2.0

Less than a week before gay marriage is expected to be legalized in Florida, Publix, the state's largest private company, wants everyone to know it will let gay and lesbian employees extend their benefits to their legal same-sex spouses. And the company expects a pat on the back for it.

It really deserves a side-eye for not doing this before. If only Publix's sense of doing the right thing could be as fresh as its subs.

See also: Publix, Where Being Gay Is No Pleasure

"Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, Publix is expanding spouse coverage for its health, dental and vision benefit plans to associates who are married in any state where same-sex marriages are legal, regardless of the associates' state of residence," reads an internal memo that was promptly and likely uncoincidentally leaked to the Miami Herald and fawned over by gay rights groups in the accompanying story.

Meanwhile, Publix competitors like Target and Trader Joe's have been offering health insurance not just to gay spouses but partners of employees for years.

In fact, just last year Publix got a big fat zero on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.

"Publix is an iconic brand as associated with Florida as beaches and sunshine," Nadine Smith of Equality Florida told the Herald today. "This step recognizes that marriage is coming and acknowledges the impossibility of maintaining separate and unequal laws in some parts of our state and nation."

But a year ago she was singing a different tune to New Times about the "shockingly conservative" grocer: "What they have described is a company that is insular and slow to move."

Publix stores are mainly concentrated in Florida, but the chain operates in five other states. Gay marriage is already legal in two, North and South Carolina. So the silver lining is that married gay employees in the states where same-sex marriage is not recognized -- Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee -- will be able to cover their partners... assuming they have the money and resources to travel out of state for a wedding.

Still, Publix shouldn't be basked in free publicity for making a pro-equality decision at the last possible minute before it would have been forced to comply anyway. Publix should have offered its gay employees equal benefits a long time ago. Remember that when you go to buy your wedding cake.

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