Walmart and the Walton Family: Not Friends of the LGBT Community (Despite the PR)

Walmart is never one to refuse a customer, so the company has begun to talk more about respect for the LGBT community. Unfortunately, behind the PR, the truth isn’t so rosy.

  • Members of the Walton family, owners of Walmart, have given extensively to anti-LGBT political candidates and causes.
  • The company has repeatedly stood on the sidelines and missed opportunities to support its LGBT workers and customers.
  • Walmart does not provide transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits and currently faces a major class action lawsuit for previously failing to extend health benefits to workers’ same-sex spouses, even in states where gay marriage was legal.

Walmart and the Waltons Have Supported an Anti-Gay Political Agenda

Walmart and the Waltons spend millions to impact the political process. Unfortunately, Walmart and the Waltons have given disproportionately to elected officials who are wrong on LGBT-rights,1 including some who have been outspoken extremists.

Walmart owner and Walton family member Jim Walton has given repeatedly to Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert. Rapert is a leading crusader against gay marriage in the State. After a state judge ruled Arkansas’ bans on gay marriage unconstitutional, Rapert sponsored a resolution accusing the judge of violating his oath and calling for the creation of a judicial recall process in the state.

Former Arkansas Congressman Jay Dickey has also been among the top recipients of campaign contributions from the Waltons. Dickey famously claimed that there were no homosexuals in his district. Dickey told Spy magazine, “You know, we have a whole lot of dirt roads and gravel roads here in Arkansas. And you don’t find a whole lot of tolerance for homosexuals on dirt roads.”

In 2008, Walmart Board Member and owner Jim Walton gave $75,000 to support an Arkansas ballot initiative that sought to ban gay couples from adopting.2 Walton’s contributions accounted for 55% of the total money raised in favor of the measure. The law passed but was later overturned by the courts.

In Walmart’s backyard, the Fayetteville City Council passed an anti-LGBT discrimination law in August 2014, and the local Chamber of Commerce promptly unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the recall of the a law. The Chamber of Commerce Board included a Walmart representative and the Ex-Officio Board included a representative of Arvest Bank, which is owned and run by Walmart owner and then-board member Jim Walton.

In 2013, nearly 300 corporations filed briefs with the Supreme Court in support of same sex marriage. Walmart was conspicuously not among them.

Walmart fails to provide transgender-inclusive health care benefits

418 companies ranked in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index provide transgender inclusive health insurance. In contrast, Walmart does not include this coverage.

Until 2014, Walmart refused to extend health benefits to workers’ same-sex spouses, even in states where gay marriage was legal. In fact, the company currently faces a large class action lawsuit for this. One of the plaintiffs, Jacqueline Cote, worked at a Walmart in Massachusetts and was denied spousal insurance for her wife, Diana Smithson. Smithson ended up battling ovarian cancer, and the couple’s medical bills topped $150,000. Ms. Smithson passed away in early 2016, and the case is scheduled for trial in November 2016. Reuters explains Walmart’s preference for doing the bare minimum required: “Wal-Mart argued before the commission that because federal anti-discrimination laws did not apply to gay employees, it was not obligated to provide benefits to their spouses.”

Still today, in contrast to companies like CVS and Safeway, Walmart does not include LGBT suppliers in their supplier diversity program.