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BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the nation's largest private employer, will now include gays and lesbians in its anti-discrimination policy, company officials said today.
The policy change had been considered for months and is now in effect, company spokesman Tom Williams said.
"Our continued growth requires us to be one of the more desirable employers around, so we're clearly stating our acceptance for all of our associates," Williams said. "Otherwise, we could lose many talented employees, and we don't want that."
Williams said company officials listened to employees and groups advocating the inclusion of gays and lesbians in anti-discrimination policies. The policy change "unfolded by itself," and last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down anti-sodomy laws was not a factor in the decision, he said. "We want all of our associates to feel treated with respect and valued, with no exceptions at all," Williams said.
The change means nine of the 10 largest Fortune 500 companies now have rules prohibiting discrimination against gay employees, according to the Human Rights Campaign, The Associated Press reports. The one exception is the ExxonMobil Corp.