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October 5, 2012

United Way of Cleveland drops Boy Scouts over gay ban

Cleveland--After unanimously voting to add sexual orientation to its equal opportunity and diversity policies, the United Way of Greater Cleveland announced on September 25 that they would no longer be funding the Boy Scouts because of their ban on gay scouts and leaders.

The funding stream will dry up after the current funding cycle, which ends June 30, 2013. The United Way sends $100,000 in donations to the Greater Cleveland Council’s Scoutreach program, which brings scouting programs to inner-city youth.

The United Way’s policy covers both the organization itself and those who wish to partner with it, so groups who want donations must abide by it. The Supreme Court in 2000 ruled that the Boy Scouts of America, as a private organization, could bar entry to gays and atheists.

Since then, the organization has lost scores of benefits it received from municipalities across the country, including below-market deals on rentals of city property. In Philadelphia, for instance, the city council is attempting to evict the Cradle of Liberty Council from a city-owned landmark building it rents for $1 a year, which could fetch up to a million dollars a year in rent at market price.

The United Way of Greater Cleveland announcement came a week after computer giant Intel, the Boy Scouts’ largest corporate funder, said that it would no longer donate to the Scouts. The company gave over $700,000 to troops and councils in 2010. Much like the United Way, Intel is requiring that organizations receiving donations adhere to the company’s antidiscrimination policy.

People who donate to the United Way can still earmark their donations for the Boy Scouts--the group’s work as a pass-through entity will not change. However, the $100,000 given from the United Way through the allocation process will cease at the end of the United Way’s fiscal year.

United Way chair Paul Clark, a regional president with PNC Bank, said that the Boy Scouts is the only one of over 100 programs that has such a discriminatory policy.

“I applaud the board of United Way of Greater Cleveland for its unanimous vote to add sexual orientation to its Equal Opportunity and Diversity Policy,” said Phyllis Harris, executive director of the Cleveland LGBT Center. “The Boy Scouts have set standards of association that exclude gay boys and men from participating with the organization. United Way of Greater Cleveland has set standards of nondiscrimination.”

“Both have made a choice and any choice that is made to be inclusive of the right for individuals to equal opportunity without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability or sexual orientation is the right choice to make,” she said.

“As the mom of a son, I can make the choice not to send him,” Harris added. “Not every family has the privileges and ability that I have to make that choice. I don’t want to have my child participate in anything that is known to be discriminatory in any fashion. It was the time, and the right thing to do based on being inclusive.”




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