JoeMyGod, an LGBT news site, obtained a memo sent to Walmart management outlining the new policy.
"We will cover domestic partners in the medical, dental, vision, life, critical illness and accident plans," reads the memo about the retailer's 2014 benefits package. "This means Walmart will offer these benefits to an associate's same- or opposite-sex spouse or unmarried partner."
The news is likely to cheer Walmart's various critics on the left. But the memo makes clear that the change doesn't come from any particular commitment to gay rights.
"It's a business decision, not a moral or political decision," it reads. "We operate in 50 states, hundreds of municipalities and Puerto Rico, and as clarified under the Supreme Court's decision to strike down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), each of these states are developing different definitions of marriage, domestic partner, civil union, etc.
That makes sense: In the face of a growing hodgepodge of local laws dictating who does and doesn't receive benefits for their domestic partners, and with Affordable Care Act provisions soon to mandate health insurance coverage for full-time employees, an across-the-board policy that encompasses the broadest legal standard is the simplest way for a large national firm to go.
Of course, the new policy still only applies to the partners of those Walmart employees who actually get full benefits. As Reuters explains, only around half of Walmart employees are currently covered by its health plans, and the retailer's part-time workers need to work there at least a year and average 30 hours a week to qualify.
Still, this is a big win for the domestic partners and same-sex spouses of Walmart's eligible employees. And as the company notes in its memo, it will help the retailer stay competitive when it comes to attracting employees.
"Given the diverse world we live in today, a comprehensive benefit package that includes domestic partner benefits appeals to the contemporary workforce," the memo reads.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.