Alabama's largest insurer now offers family coverage to legally married gay couples in order to comply with a federal rule that insurance companies must treat married couples the same, regardless of sexual orientation. A spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama said the company began offering same-sex spousal coverage for underwritten plans in early 2014 in response to federal regulations. The Department of Health and Human Services in March said that gay couples, who were married in any of the states where gay marriage is legal, are entitled to spousal coverage regardless of where they live now. The federal agency urged insurers to voluntarily comply with the rule. It becomes a requirement beginning Jan. 1, 2015, according to the HHS guidance. The rule applies to many, but not all, insurance plans. A spokesman for the Alabama Department of Insurance said the department did not know how many Alabama insurers are currently offering the benefit.