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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 22, 2005

United Way makes a new deal with the Boy Scouts

Columbus--Ohio�s second largest United Way has struck a deal with the Boy Scouts in an attempt to live up to its new non-discrimination policy.

If approved by the United Way of Central Ohio board, the deal would give the Boy Scouts the same amount of money but for only two programs, which don�t allow discrimination by sexual orientation.

Under a national policy upheld by the Supreme Court, most Boy Scout programs do not allow gay members or volunteers.

Last year, the United Way gave the Simon Kenton Boy Scout Council $512,448 for the 2004-05 fiscal year.

This was divided by the council among traditional scouting and urban scouting programs, which prohibit gays, and Exploring and the school-based Learning for Life programs that do not.

The new proposal calls for United Way to give $500,082 next year to Exploring and Learning for Life only.

The Simon Kenton Council will then subtract money from their current funding of the two programs and put it into the discriminating ones.

The slightly lower United Way amount represents a 2.3 percent reduction in all programs due to lower campaign results, said United Way spokesperson Sharon Keaney.

The United Way, which serves Franklin County, adopted its non-discrimination policy in February, 2004. It is the only one of Ohio�s United Way organizations with a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, volunteer opportunities and services.

All groups receiving United Way funds were required to sign a statement that they do not discriminate.

Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts attempted to create an exception to the policy by attaching a �clarification letter� to the statement before signing it.

The letter said the Boy Scout council �will not unlawfully discriminate against anyone.� This would, in effect, exempt the Boy Scouts from the policy since no federal or Ohio law bans discrimination by sexual orientation.

The United Way countered with the latest proposal, which will be considered by its board on July 26.

Reaction is mixed.

Though she is aware that there is no real net loss to the Boy Scouts, Stonewall Columbus programming director Kellye Pinkleton called the deal �progress.�

�I think it is progress from a donor perspective,� said Pinkleton. �They�re giving to programs with sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies, and that�s what we would want.�

Beacon Fellowship director Perry Slone said, �It�s splitting hairs. They are ultimately still funding the Boy Scouts the same amount, so I have mixed feelings about it. We�re not 100 percent pleased with the compromise.�

Beacon led the opposition to the Boy Scouts� attempted modification to the non-discrimination policy.

Slone noted that GLBT people could continue to contribute to the United Way, but should designate their contribution to go to a specific organization. This could be a United Way agency, such as the Columbus AIDS Task Force, or one which is not, like Stonewall. Non-member agencies will get this �directed� money after the United Way deducts administrative fees.

�But avoiding the United Way altogether and sending the money directly to those organizations would work even better,� said Slone.�


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