Disney Attempts to Force Boy Scouts Over Gay Leaders Ban; Threatens to Halt Funding

The Walt Disney Company has notified the Boy Scouts of America that it will withdraw all funding from the organization beginning 2015 unless the BSA overturns its policy of not allowing openly gay members to be leaders.

July 17, 2012 marked Disneyland's 57th anniversary.
July 17, 2012 marked Disneyland's 57th anniversary. | (Photo: Reuters/File)

The entertainment company has a VoluntEARS program through which its employees carry out volunteer work in exchange for cash donations to the non-profits of their choice. However, Disney has now announced that the employees taking part in the program will no longer be able to submit the funds to the Boy Scouts, according to CNN.

Disney's corporate website says that the company's employees raised $4.8 million via 548,000 volunteer hours in 2010.

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The company's new guidelines on charitable giving says that groups which "discriminate in the provision of services unlawfully or in a manner inconsistent with Disney's policies on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, age, marital status, mental or physical ability, or sexual orientation," cannot receive funding.

Disney employees, however, will still be allowed to volunteer with the BSA.

"We recognize that many Scout units have received financial support over the last several years from this grant opportunity and are sad to see it go," Scouts' Central Florida Council Board President Robert Utsey wrote to local members in an e-mail. "The National BSA Council has reached out to (Disney) to try to resolve the situation, however, according to WDW, their views do not currently align with the BSA and they are choosing to discontinue this level of support."

"We believe every child deserves the opportunity to be a part of the Scouting experience, and we are disappointed in this decision because it will impact our ability to serve kids," BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement. "America's youth need Scouting, and by continuing to focus on the goals that unite us, we continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve."

Last May, the BSA passed a resolution that said, "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."

The resolution took effect Jan. 1.

However, the scouting organization retained its ban on gay adult leaders. "The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," the BSA said after the May 2013 vote.

"We're never happy to see Scouting suffer as a result of the BSA's anti-gay policy, but Disney made the right decision to withhold support until Scouting is fully inclusive," Zach Wahls, Scouts for Equality co-founder, said in a statement. "Scouts for Equality will continue to advocate for a fully inclusive membership policy, to help build a stronger Scouting community that is eligible for the support of corporate America."

Disney is seen as a gay-friendly employer. An openly gay executive, George Kalogridis, was appointed president of Walt Disney World last year. The company's Orlando park will host "Gay Day" events in June.

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