ExxonMobil Will Offer Long-Denied Benefits to Legally Married Same-Sex Couples in U.S.

It ain't the state of Texas, but same-sex couples just got their legal marriages recognized by an entity that wields more influence at home and abroad than Governor Rick Perry ever will -- that's Irving-based oil giant ExxonMobil.

The company, known for its insular, white-bread corporate culture, changes course about as agilely as cruise ship. It was slow to acknowledge the existence of climate change while it bankrolled efforts to sew doubt where overwhelming scientific consensus exits. Not exactly a bastion of forward thought.

And if you look at the announcement, heartening though it is, we aren't witnessing ExxonMobil's evolution into the more enlightened ranks of its Fortune 500 brethren, which have long offered domestic-partner benefits. "We haven't changed our eligibility criteria. It has always been to follow the federal definition and it will continue to follow the federal definition," a spokesman told The Associated Press, clearly referring to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

If a country Exxon operates in mandates marriage benefits and anti-discrimination policies, the company provides them. If it isn't required, Exxon hews only to what it must do, and not to what it should. When it acquired Fort Worth-based XTO in 2009, Exxon rescinded the protections and benefits the company previously offered to its gay employees. It did the same when it bought Mobil in 1999.

The oil major says its policies prohibit all forms of discrimination, and that there's no need to single out gays. Yet it's fighting a lawsuit in Illinois from gay advocacy organization that sent fictitious résumés for a job opening. The more highly qualified candidate identified as gay and never received a call from Exxon. The less-qualified candidate, however, did, the lawsuit claims.

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