Major Grocery Chain In Deep South Backs Marriage Equality

What if I told you that a company can support family values, record massive profits, AND take a progressive stance on same sex marriage?

Starting in January, Florida-based grocery chain, Publix, will begin extending healthcare benefits to all of their married employees, regardless of sexual orientation.

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The chain of stores operates throughout the Deep South, including three states that have outright bans on gay marriage: Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Beginning in the New Year, even employees who reside in states that refuse to recognize same sex marriage will be permitted to extend health and dental benefits to their spouses, provided that they’ve obtained a valid marriage license in a state that legally endorses marriage equality.


Image: ILTB

Publix also operates stores in both North and South Carolina, two states where bans against same sex marriage were recently struck down by federal judges. Florida, where the chain is based, is set to begin issuing same sex marriage licenses on January 6th. Given the changing marriage laws in many of the states where the company does business, the grocer has elected to progress with the times. Maria Brouse, director of media relations, explains to CNN:

It’s good business for us to offer benefits to all employees, not just those in the states that recognize it.

Publix has a long history of being an employee-centered business, making it a cornerstone of their business model. Founded by George W. Jenkins during the midst of the Great Depression, the company boasts a family-like workforce that shares in the chain’s success via profit-sharing and stock options:

Publix’s prosperity can be attributed not only to the caliber of its associates but also to Mr. Jenkins’ commitment to their long-term well-being. Mr. George was a good and kind employer. By sharing his profits and allowing workers to take actual ownership in the company, he created loyal, happy employees eager to serve their customers. The stock ownership and retirement plans he instituted are important incentives and benefits that have helped make Publix the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the United States.

The retailer employs over 180,000 employees, offering benefit packages to both full- and part-time staff. They join an increasing number of Fortune 500 companies making a progressive shift in how they approach healthcare options for gay and lesbian employees.

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