HRC says it may start penalizing corporations for gifts to anti-gay organization, which received $315K from local United Way in 2012
IRVING — After appealing to the good will and fairness of the Boy Scouts of America to lift its ban on gays, LGBT advocates have a new tactic: Go after the organization’s major funders, from Fortune 500 companies to the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
And so far, the new strategy seems to be working.
The group Scouts for Equality, founded by former Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, recently convinced Intel, the Boys Scouts’ largest corporate funder, to cut off support for Scout councils that don’t have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies.
And this week, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign told Dallas Voice that HRC is looking at ways to penalize companies for contributions to organizations like the Boy Scouts in the annual Corporate Equality Index.
Under Intel’s new rule, local Boy Scout troops and councils that do not discriminate and refuse to comply with the official Boy Scouts policy are still eligible for funds.
BSA stands to lose $700,000 a year from Intel.
“We have no problem with councils that have stated nondiscrimination policies,” said Wahls, a straight ally who was raised by two moms.
Since the Intel victory, Scouts for Equality has picked its next target — UPS, which gave the Boy Scouts $167,000 in 2010.
Although UPS is not the next-largest funder of the Scouts, Wahls said the company is highly visible, the Christmas package delivery season is approaching and of its total donation, $100,000 went directly to national headquarters.
Other major funders of the Boy Scouts include local United Way chapters, which may or may not take the Scouts’ ban on gays into account.
“Some United Ways are doing that by their own volition,” Wahls said.
The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas gave $315,846 to the Boy Scouts Circle Ten Council in 2012. The Circle Ten Council does not have an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy.
“The welfare of the individuals served by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is always our highest priority,” United Way of Metropolitan Dallas spokeswoman Michelle Frith wrote in an email. “As an organization, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas adheres to an anti-discrimination policy for its hiring practices. While we require our grantees to comply with all related federal laws, we do not require anyone to adopt our own internal operating policies.”
By adhering only to federal policies, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas allows the organizations it funds to discriminate against the LGBT community.
Andy Smith is the director of corporate philanthropy for Texas Instruments and served on the board of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas in 2011.
Smith, who’s gay, said Texas Instruments does not fund the Boy Scouts.
He said Texas Instruments has a long history with United Way dating back to TI founder Erik Jonsson, who helped create and served as the first president of the local United Way. TI is often the United Way’s largest contributor.
“We made it clear to United Way our position on the Scouts,” Smith said.
While giving money to the Boy Scouts this year, the United Way also decreased its contributions to two local HIV/AIDS agencies.
In 2011, Resource Center Dallas received $383,409 from the United Way for its dental and nutrition programs. AIDS Arms was granted $772,548 for access and retention to HIV medical care. This year, RCD received $330,000 and AIDS Arms $335,000.
Partially the shift in funds from AIDS was a decision by United Way to move money from healthcare to basic needs. Resource Center got more money for its nutrition program this year. The cut in United Way funding was to RCD’s dental program. And other healthcare recipients like Children’s Hospital lost $1 million.
Frith said the money for the Boy Scouts is earmarked for two programs: A youth development program to help boys in elementary school learn skills to succeed in high school, and a career development, leadership and life skills program.
But, because of Boy Scouts policies, if any of the children involved in those programs were gay, they presumably would be thrown out.
The Boy Scouts do not release a list of its donors. The American Independent News Network did research to find the corporations that made the largest gifts to the organization. No local companies were on the list, despite its national headquarters’ Irving location: Not companies like Texas Instruments or AT&T with their perfect Corporate Equality Index scores. Not even companies like ExxonMobil, which has the lowest possible score on the CEI and whose CEO is a former president of the Boy Scouts.
Plano-based J.C. Penney has an 85 percent CEI rating for 2012. Boys and Girls Clubs and 4H Club were monthly charity partners for J.C. Penney this year. The Boy Scouts were not.
Irving-based Kimberly Clark with a 90 percent score also supports Boys and Girls Clubs but not its neighbor Boy Scouts of America.
AT&T, whose CEO serves as the current president of BSA, also does not list the Boy Scouts as a beneficiary of its “sustainability and philanthropy giving.”
In its rating system, HRC deducts points from companies that work against equality.
“Currently the CEI deducts points from companies that donate to groups whose explicit mission is to oppose LGBT equality,” HRC spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz said. “While it does not currently address the issue of companies that support institutions which have their own policies that discriminate against LGBT people, we are exploring how to incorporate this kind of criteria in a systematic way.”
University of Texas senior Eric Hay grew up in Plano and was part of a Circle Ten Council troop. He achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, became a troop leader, a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow, and a Texas scout camp staff member.
But Hay would have been denied had anyone in his Scouting organization learned he was gay. So he started a Change.org calling for the Circle Ten Council to oppose the national anti-gay policy.
In his petition, Hay describes himself as bisexual. “I remember scouts mostly reinforcing values my parents already taught me, and doing so in a fun and constructive environment,” Hay wrote to Dallas Voice. “For example, campouts taught me to be self-sufficient and willing to help others while enjoying the outdoors.”
Valuing his Scouting experience, he said he believes all youth should be allowed to experience it. “When I earned the rank of Eagle, I believed in what it stood for,” he said. “It stood for years of developing as a man. For me, it was recognition that I had lived the Scout Law.”
Hay said if the Boy Scouts really stand for everything they say they do, then they should give others a chance to act as he did — honorably and with decorum — and not discriminate. Hay’s petition is at TinyURL.com/9d29yul.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 12, 2012.
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