Disney to pull Boy Scouts funding by 2015 over policy banning gay leaders

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(CNN) – The Walt Disney Company has given notice to the Boy Scouts of America that it will pull all funding to the group starting in 2015 because of a BSA membership policy that bans gay leaders, the entertainment company said Friday.

Disney does not give money directly to the national organization or local BSA councils. However, through its VoluntEARS program, Disney allows employees to do volunteer work in exchange for cash donations to the charities of their choice.

Employees taking part in the VoluntEARS program will no longer be able to submit the funds to the Boy Scouts, the organization said. The new policy will not affect Walt Disney employees who volunteer with the Scouts, the company said.

“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,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said 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.”

Though the Boy Scouts voted last year to allow gay youths to join its ranks, the group maintains a ban on gay Scout leaders.

According to Disney’s charitable giving guidelines, groups become ineligible to receive Disney funding if they “discriminate in the provision of services unlawfully or in a manner inconsistent with Disney’s policies on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, national origin, age, marital status, mental or physical ability, or sexual orientation.”

Disney would not divulge its formula for converting volunteer hours to dollars, but a chart on Disney’s corporate website shows that in 2010, employees raised $4.8 million via 548,000 volunteer hours, which works out to $8.79 an hour.

Among the events for which employees volunteered were a triathlon for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the Revlon Run-Walk for cancer, Children’s Hospital of Orange County Walk at Disneyland Resort and the Champion 5K at ESPN for the V Foundation, according to Disney.

Deena Fidas, the director of workplace equality for the Human Rights Campaign, said Disney’s decision “carries a unique weight. When you think about brands that exemplify childhood, you think of Disney, and with them dissociating with BSA, it speaks volumes of where we are with the views we want to send to young people.”

In a recent report, HRC cited numerous victories in its quest to ensure workplace equality and applauded the majority of Fortune 500 companies that now offer sexual-orientation and gender-identity protections to their employees.

Despite that, “we know that over 50% of (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) employees remain closeted on the job,” the report said.

On Thursday, Scouts for Equality, which says it works to end discrimination within the BSA, praised a separate decision by Walt Disney World to end local support for the BSA’s Central Florida Council.

“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,” Eagle Scout and Scouts for Equality co-founder Zach Wahls said in a statement.

Scouts for Equality says Disney joins Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Major League Soccer, Merck, Intel and UPS as companies who have ended partnerships with the Scouts because of its policy. Fidas said Alcoa and AT&T are also on that list.

By Devon Sayers

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