Exxon on Friday announced that it will begin extending benefits to the spouses of gay employees in the United States as of October 1.

The oil giant said that it will recognize “all legal marriages” for the purpose of health care plans.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said that it was simply following the federal government's lead. As a result of the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal agencies have begun to offer benefits to married gay and lesbian couples.

“We haven't changed our eligibility criteria,” Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers told the AP. “It has always been to follow the federal definition and it will continue to follow the federal definition.”

Tico Almeida, founder and president of Freedom to Work, cheered the announcement as a breakthrough.

“After years of stubbornly refusing, we commend Exxon for joining the majority of the Fortune 500 business leaders that already treat gay and lesbian married couples equally under employee benefit plans,” Almeida said in an emailed statement.

Earlier this year, Freedom to Work filed a same-sex discrimination lawsuit against Exxon in Illinois.

(Related: Exxon Mobil sued for anti-gay discrimination ahead of planned vote.)

“It's time for Exxon to stop wasting its shareholders' money by running up legal bills on discrimination proceedings that can be settled right away if the corporation would simply add LGBT protections to Exxon's official equal employment opportunity document,” Almeida added.