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Boy Scouts of America Loses Largest Donor Because of Its Anti-gay Policy
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 09/21/12
Last updated on: 09/22/12
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Ousted den leader Jennifer Tyrrell.

Intel Corporation, the Boy Scouts of America's largest corporate donor, which gave $700,000 to the organization in 2010, announced on September 21, 2012 that it will donate only to troops and councils that explicitly pledge not to discriminate against gay people. To receive funding from Intel henceforward, Boy Scout troops must denounce the national policy that bans gay scouts and leaders, which was reaffirmed in July.

Despite a recent history of haphazard enforcement of its policy in a manner similar to the way the military enforced the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in its last couple of years, the organization concluded in July that its ban "is absolutely the best policy for the organization."

The BSA website contains a statement saying that while the organization does not "grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA," it does not "proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members."

As I observed in July, this "Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy may be intended to be a liberalization of their categorical ban on gay scouts and leaders, but, ironically, it only serves to marginalize the organization even further."

Pressure to change the policy has intensified recently.

Jennifer Tyrrell's April ouster as den leader of her son's Cub Scout troop because she is a lesbian brought new attention to the ban.

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, who is the son of lesbian parents, founded an organization called Scouts for Equality. He delivered almost 300,000 signatures to the BSA's annual convention earlier this year urging an end to the ban.

In addition, many Eagle Scouts returned their badges to the organization in protest of the ban.

Outrage was also provoked by an incident in California this summer in which openly gay Eagle Scout Tim Griffin was fired from his seasonal job as counselor at Camp Winton, a job he had held for three years. In solidarity with him, a dozen other counselors resigned their positions.

The Boy Scouts of America's policy also prompted an investigation by The American Independent, which, as Andy Birkey reported on September 18, 2012, "Corporate foundations have given millions to the Boy Scouts of America and its subdivisions in recent years despite that organization's policy of excluding gays and lesbians. Many of those same foundations have policies against giving to organizations that discriminate based on sexual orientation."

Birkey found that "Twenty-three of the top 50 corporate foundations, ranked by the Foundation Center in terms of total charitable giving, gave at least $10,000 each to the Boy Scouts in 2010, the most recent year for which data was available for most companies. Combined, they gave about $3.6 million."

By far, the biggest donor to the Boy Scouts is the Intel Foundation, which donated about $700,000 in 2010. The Verizon Foundation donated more than $300,000; Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and Bank of America each gave more than $100,000.

Many of these corporate foundations have nondiscrimination policies. Intel, for example, has an explicit policy saying that it does not donate to groups that discriminate.

The policy states that the Intel Foundation will not fund "organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, veteran or disability status."

When it became known that Intel was the largest donor to the Boy Scouts and was clearly violating its own policies by donating to an organization that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, there was an outcry.

A Change.org petition, inaugurated by Zach Wahls on September 20, 2012, called on Intel to end its support. It gathered more than 30,000 signatures in little more than 24 hours.

In response, Intel issued a statement to ThinkProgress on September 21, announcing that no donations will henceforward be made to any boy scout troop that discriminates.

Intel's Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell said that the company had not given directly to the national organization. "The $700,000 in funding from the Intel Foundation was donated to local Boy Scout troops or councils where our employees volunteer their time, through our volunteer matching grants program."

She added, "earlier this year we revisited our policies associated with the program, and applied new rigor that requires any organization to confirm that it adheres to Intel's anti-discrimination policy in order to receive funding."

Under its new policy, Boy Scout troops and councils that explicitly announce that they refuse to abide by BSA's national policy will still be eligible for Intel's funding.

Wahls hailed the decision by Intel to insist on explicit confirmation by applicants that they do not discriminate. He said that "Intel made the right decision here, in order to live up to their corporate values of diversity, equality and individual liberty. Companies that support the LGBT community simply can't be in the business of funding organizations that discriminate."

"Frankly, by sending this message, Intel is upholding the true spirit of Scouting better than the BSA is today," he added.

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick also applauded Intel's decision.

"Intel joins current Boy Scouts of America Board Members, President Obama, Mitt Romney and hundreds of thousands of Americans in speaking out against the BSA's practice of unfairly kicking out gay scouts and scout leaders simply because of who they are. All of the great work that the BSA does to help young people will continue to be overshadowed by their blatant discrimination until they join other inclusive national organizations like the Girl Scouts of the USA and the 4-H Club. The time is now for the BSA to side with fairness, otherwise they will continue to see sponsors and scouting families drop their support."

In the video below Jennifer Tyrell and Zach Wahls speak at the GLAAD media awards gala in June 2012.

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