Days before same-sex marriage is due to become legal in Florida, Publix has told employees that gay and lesbian couples legally married elsewhere will be eligible Thursday for group health and other insurance.
“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 from the supermarket company’s corporate communications department. “Publix’s benefit plans offer coverage to legal spouses, and until recently, the states in which Publix operates did not recognize same-sex marriages as legal unions.”
Until now, Publix did not offer insurance benefits for same-sex couples, legally married or not. “The majority of the total Fortune 500 — 66 percent — offer equivalent medical benefits between spouses and partners,” according to the nation’s leading LGBT-rights lobbying group, Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
Publix, based in Lakeland, owns 1,095 grocery stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Thirty-five states, plus the District of Columbia, recognize same-sex marriage, including North Carolina, where it became legal in October, and South Carolina, where it became legal in November. Story and copy of Publix memo here.
After it appeared gay marriage will become legal in Florida on Jan. 6, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Osceola County Clerk Armando Ramirez and Circuit Court Judge Bob LeBlanc said they would perform same-sex marriages in Central Florida.
On Tuesday, the conservative Orlando-based Florida Family Association sued all three for “their intentions to defy Florida law and either issue same-sex marriage licenses or officiate over same-sex marriage ceremonies on or after January 6, 2015.”
In its filing, the Florida Family Association cited a memo from law firm Greenberg Traurig to the state clerks’ association, which has caused confusion throughout Florida as to who must abide by Hinkle’s order. The Washington County clerk, named in the federal suit, last week asked Hinkle for clarification. The judge then ordered other defendants in the case, and Bondi, to respond to him by the end of the day on Monday.