Disney cuts ties with Boy Scouts over anti-gay policy

Boy scouts walk through the empty halls of a meeting house of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Cedar Hills, Utah, Oct. 11, 2012.
Boy scouts walk through the empty halls of a meeting house of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Cedar Hills, Utah, Oct. 11, 2012.

The Walt Disney Company has joined a growing list of corporate sponsors to cut ties with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) over a controversial policy banning gay adult leaders.

In an email posted online Friday by Scouts for Equality, an alumni association dedicated to ending anti-gay discrimination in the BSA, the board president of the BSA's Central Florida Council alerted Scout leaders and parents of the entertainment company's decision.

“It has recently come to our attention that the grant program titled ‘Ears to You’ provided by Walt Disney World (WDW,) to their employees, will be discontinued for Scouting volunteers,” said Robert Utsey, Central Florida Council board president, in the email. “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 WDW 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.”

Disney did not provide direct funding to the BSA, but rather rewarded employees’ volunteerism through financial contributions to the eligible charities of their choice. With Disney’s decision, the Boy Scouts will be removed from the roster of charities employees could choose from for donations through the entertainment company’s “Ears to You” program.

The Walt Disney Company -- which bans discrimination against employees and applicants on the basis of sexual orientation, among other characteristics -- did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“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,” said BSA spokesman Deron Smith 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.”

The BSA has been under fire from both sides of the equality debate after it made the controversial decision last year to lift a longstanding ban on openly gay youth, while keeping in place its ban on openly gay adults. Since then, the Southern Baptist Convention -- which sponsored close to 4,000 Scouting units -- drafted a resolution condemning the youth organization for accepting gay children, and expressing “support for the churches and families that as a matter of conscience can no longer be part of the Scouting family.” A number of Baptist and Evangelical churches have ended their affiliations with local BSA troops.

On the other side of the coin, Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Major League Soccer, Merck, Intel, UPS, and now Disney have ended their partnerships with the BSA over its continued resistance to full LGBT inclusion, according to Scouts for Equality. Deena Fidas, the director of workplace equality for the Human Rights Campaign, added Alcoa and AT&T to that list, CNN reports.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and co-founder of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement that Disney “made the right decision.”