Bloomberg News reports that Wal-Mart will change its benefits policy and allow the same-sex partners of its workers to qualify for company health plans.

From Bloomberg:

Full-time associates’ spouses and domestic partners will be eligible for coverage in medical, dental, vision, life, critical illness and accident plans, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said in a postcard to employees this week that was provided to Bloomberg.

Wal-Mart, a frequent target of labor-rights groups pushing for better pay and benefits, said it made the change to have a consistent policy for all 50 states as some alter their definitions of marriage.

Among Fortune 500 companies, 62 percent offer health-care benefits to same-sex partners, up from 34 percent in 2002, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“Wal-Mart, as America’s largest employer, has sent a cultural signal that equality for LGBT people is the simplest of mainstream values and we look forward to continuing to work with them,” Chad Griffin, president of the Washington-based group, said today in an e-mailed statement, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Griffin said he worked at Wal-Mart as a teenager and was “moved” by the decision.

Wal-Mart said more than half of its 1.3 million employees participate in company health care plans.

According to the Bloomberg report, Wal-Mart will define “domestic partners” to include same- or opposite-sex spouses, unmarried partners who live together for at least 12 months, aren’t married to anyone else and plan to continue sharing a household indefinitely.

Read the full report here.

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