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Wal-Mart unit warms to gay weddings
Report: Retailer's Asda unit in Britain introduces cards, 'commitment rings' for gay weddings.
December 7, 2005: 9:12 AM EST

NEW YORK ( - Wal-Mart's British subsidiary, Asda, has introduced a line of wedding cards and "commitment rings" to coincide with the country's legalization of gay civil unions, according to a published report Wednesday.

However, The New York Times said Wal-Mart critics are accusing the parent company of hypocrisy given Wal-Mart's strict store policies in the U.S. where the retailer, which tries to pitch itself as a family-friendly store, pulled a few racy magazines from its shelves or refused to sell some popular books such as "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops" by George Carlin because of controversial content.

The first gay and lesbian marriages in England will take place Dec. 21, the newspaper said. Asda, a food and clothing superstore that is wholly owned by Wal-Mart, this week began selling cards that read, "Wedding day wishes, Mrs. & Mrs.," and "Congratulations, Mr. & Mr."

Asda will also sell a line of matching gold and diamond rings for about $104 each, the report said.

"Ever since gay weddings were given the official go-ahead, we've had a number of customers asking if we could introduce gay cards," Asda spokesman Ed Watson told the newspaper. "With the launch of our new range, we can ensure that our customers can celebrate every marriage -- whether it is between him and her, him and him, or her and her."

Tracy Sefl with Washington-based advocacy group Wal-Mart Watch told the Times that Wal-Mart is trying to be "all things to all people anywhere but in the United States."

"In the United States they have a conservative, right-leaning business model," she said.

Asda, Britain's third-largest retailer, was bought by Wal-Mart in 1999. Since then, the unit has carefully maintained its independence from its parent, the report said.

Asda is more comfortable selling music, books or magazines that Wal-Mart might consider risque, Bryan Roberts, an analyst with London-based consulting group Planet Retail, told the newspaper.

Last year, Asda announced it was "rolling back" the price of condoms in time for the Christmas party season, the report said. This October, Asda cut prices in liquor and beer as part of its Christmas promotions, the newspaper said.

The cultures of Asda and Wal-Mart are "very different," Watson told the Times, adding that the cultures of America and Britain are very different as well.

The newspaper said Wal-Mart was not immediately available for comment.


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