You may recall that back in April of 2013, the Boy Scouts of America began allowing gay kids under the age of 18 to participate in scouting, but maintained that openly gay adults still could not serve as scout leaders.
This discriminatory policy has led Walt Disney World to discontinue funding the BSA through their annual “Ears to You” grant program until the policy changes:
In an e-mail to local members, Central Florida Council Board President Robert Utsey wrote: “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. The National BSA Council has reached out to [Walt Disney World] 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.”
Since Scouts for Equality’s inception in 2012, seven major corporate sponsors of the Boy Scouts of America have ended their partnerships with the organization. These sponsors include Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Major League Soccer, Merck, Intel, UPS and now Walt Disney World.
Zach Wahls, the co-founder of Eagle Scout and Scouts for Equality — who is himself a straight Eagle Scout with two lesbian parents — said, “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.”
U.S. aerospace, defense and security company Lockheed Martin has announced that it will cease donations to the Boy Scouts of America over its ban on gay leaders, the AP reports:
"We believe engaging with and funding an organization that openly discriminates is in conflict with our policies," [spokesman Gordon Johndroe] said. "While we applaud the mission of the Boy Scouts and the good things they do in our communities, their policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and religious affiliation conflict with Lockheed Martin policies."
This year, the Irving, Texas-based Boy Scouts revised its policy to allow gay boys to participate in Scouting, but it maintained the ban on gay leaders. The change drew criticism from both sides of the debate over the anti-gay policy.
Johndroe said Lockheed Martin was pleased to see the Boy Scouts revise its membership policy but opposes the continued ban on gay leadership. The company's review of its philanthropy came at the end of the year as it reevaluates priorities for 2014, he said.
"We're taking a close look at all nonprofit organizations we support to ensure they align with our company's core values," Johndroe said.
Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls praised the company’s decision in an interview with Buzzfeed, saying that he hopes the news resonates with BSA leadership.
“This is a big deal for two reasons,” Wahls told BuzzFeed. “First, it’s another clear sign of where the country’s business community is on this issue. And second, it’s particularly important given the ascendance of Bob Gates to the Boy Scouts executive board. He is taking over in May of 2014 and as a former secretary of defense, he has a unique relationship with Lockheed Martin. This says the issue is not going away.”
On The Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell spoke with Eagle Scout Zach Wahls of Scouts for Equality, and MSNBC commentator Jonathan Capehart last night after the BSA held a press conference announcing their decision.
The Boy Scouts, whose national council is currently in a meeting at its headquarters in Dallas, plans its long awaited vote on the organization's gay ban today, the NYT reports:
In a secret ballot, more than 1,400 volunteer leaders from scouting’s 270 councils will accept or reject a proposal that has led to strident divisions and debate. The emotions were evident Wednesday outside the conference center here in a suburb of Dallas, where dozens of conservative Christians, many in scout uniforms, carried “no” signs and waved American flags.
“We’re trying to uphold traditional values,” said Bill Lizzio, 58, a scout leader who had driven from Tennessee to register his concern.
Angry parents threatened to pull their sons out of scouting, saying they would never let them share a tent with a gay boy. Current and former Boy Scouts who want to end the exclusionary policy, including several who were forced out of scouting for being gay, gave their own news briefing.
David Rice, 84, of Petaluma, Calif., who said he was ejected as a scout leader in 1998 after he publicly advocated including gays, said that if scouting did not change with the culture, “it will be left behind.”
“We cannot afford to lose this American icon,” he said.
Gay rights activists called for delegates to approve the policy change and vowed to continue their efforts until the Boy Scouts lifts its ban on gay adult leaders as well.
"There is nothing Scout-like about exclusion of other people, and there is nothing Scout-like about putting your own religious beliefs before someone else's," said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout raised by two lesbians and founder of Scouts for Equality.
Gay rights advocates gathered petitions with more than 1.8 million signatures supporting an end to the ban. Supporters of the current policy gathered petitions with about 250,000 signatures.
If the proposal passes as expected, some troops and the religious groups that sponsor them will withdraw from the national organization, they have said — a dangerous possibility for a group whose membership has decreased by nearly 19% during the last decade, according to the most recent figures from 2011.
Orr said that her troop leaders planned to meet to discuss what to do but that nationwide "there will be a huge loss of membership and revenue." About 70% of troops are sponsored by religious groups, and the ban is backed by the Southern Baptist Convention, Family Research Council and other conservative religious organizations.
"My religious beliefs cannot be compromised," said Mike Duncan, 46, a scoutmaster who described himself as Christian and traveled to the protest from Johnson City, Tenn., upset that opponents of the ban have brought sex and politics into Scouting.
"They're asking churches to support something that is wrong," he said.
GLAAD has been updating a live blog on the ground in Dallas and former Eagle Scout Zach Wahls and ousted den leader Jennifer Tyrrell have been speaking at press conferences...check out their photos and videos here.
Scouting for Equality's Wahls wrote a strong editorial for PolicyMic yesterday. Here he is speaking at yesterday's press conference on the ground in Dallas.
A powerful new video from the Scouts for Equality leader about his lesbian mom and den mother Jackie.
"It was really her guidance, as a leader, that I think facilitated the growth and development of us as boys, into young men. And it was interesting because Jackie, my mom, was an openly lesbian woman. So even though there was this policy that openly gay people couldn’t be a part of the program, once a lot of the other parents and leaders saw that Jackie just wanted a positive scouting experience for me and for my peers, they understood that they didn’t have anything to be afraid of. That made all the difference. It also illustrated to me the importance of lifting this ban so that mothers, like mine, could be a part of scouting experiences for their sons, all over the country."
CNN's Don Lemon covered the Boy Scouts' gay ban in a segment Sunday in which two Eagle Scouts appeared: Scouts for Equality's Zach Wahls and John Stemberger, an anti-gay activist with the Florida Family Policy Council who started an organization for homophobes opposed to gays in the BSA called On My Honor.
Stemberger said that opening the Boys Scouts to gay people will destroy it and there is not way that the Catholics, the LDS, or the Baptists will allow it. He also tried to argue that the Boy Scouts are actually fine with gays in their organization, and there's not a "witch hunt" against those that are in it because they are "appropriate, discreet, and not loud and proud."
Wahls, when given his opportunity, calmly destroyed him:
"When people try to say that this is about, you know, 'open' or 'avowed' homosexuality, it's really just a code word for the problem they have with gay people. Being an 'open gay person' is not a whole lot different from being a closeted gay person except for the fact that you have somebody trying to lie and violate the very first part of the Scout law which is that a Scout is trustworthy."