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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Lockheed Changes Course on Gay Workers

Lockheed Martin, the biggest defense contractor in the United States, has reversed a long-standing policy and will give gay and lesbian workers civil rights protections, and their partners will receive health benefits.

The company announced its decision in an e-mail to all 125,000 employees last Thursday. Vance D. Coffman, Lockheed's chief executive, said the decision was made by the company's executive council.

Coffman said sexual orientation will be added immediately to the company's nondiscrimination policy. Domestic partner benefits will be introduced early next year.

"I ask you to give your unwavering support to a company that values the contributions of all employees," Coffman said in the employee e-mail.

Last year, a small group of shareholders attempted to have the company add the civil rights protections for gay workers.

Shareholders endorsed a company motion to reject it.

In August, Lockheed received a "zero" rating from the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for gay civil rights. HRC said the company's anti-discrimination policies were inadequate to meet the needs of its gay employees.

Lockheed spokeswoman Meghan Mariman said the company's position changed because so many of its competitors -- including Honeywell International, Boeing Co., Raytheon Co., International Business Machines Corp. and Microsoft Corp. -- added sexual-orientation policies and domestic-partner benefits, and Lockheed began to worry that it would lose valuable employees to them.

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