Walt Disney World (WDW) will suspend its funding of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)'s Central Florida Council because of continued discrimination against gay Scout leaders, reported Scouts for Equality this morning.
Disney has long been connected to the Boy Scouts; not only do Boy Scout camps screen "Follow Me, Boys!", a film about scouting and one of the last produced by Walt Disney before his passing, every summer, but WDW also offers a grant program called "EARS to You." According to a 2010 report from the Walt Disney Company, Ears to You "recognizes employees' volunteerism through financial contributions to the eligible charities of their choice." Now, WDW will no longer recognize volunteer hours with the local BSA divisions, meaning the Council, District, and Unit are not eligible for such grant funding.
An e-mail from Robert Utsey, Central Florida Council Board President, informed Scout leaders and parents that, while "many Scout Units have received financial support over the last several years from this grant opportunity and are sad to see it go…according to WDW, their views do not currently align with the BSA."
Though this does not specifically reference BSA's lingering anti-gay policy, numerous major corporations—including Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Major League Soccer, Merck, Intel, and UPS--in recent years have paused financial ties with the Scouting organization as it continues to exclude participation from LGBT community members.
Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts for Equality, tweeted about Walt Disney World's decision earlier today:
— Zacharia Wahls (@ZachWahls) February 27, 2014
GLAAD has partnered with scouting families and advocates, working towards fully inclusive scouting since 2012. Thanks to such grassroots advocates like Zach and Jennifer Tyrrell, BSA lifted its national ban on gay members in spring 2013. Because of this major stride, teens like Pascal Tessier (the first-known openly gay Eagle Scout) are now able to excel in the organization. However, BSA continues to ban adults who identify as LGBT from holding leadership positions. Pascal's brother Lucien, who is also gay and an Eagle Scout, recently reflected on being considered "unfit" for leadership.
As families like the Tessier's, the Tyrrell's, and Wahls' continue to influence BSA policy as well as corporate sponsorship decisions, full equality in scouting remains an attainable vision. To learn more about GLAAD's efforts to achieve this goal, check out glaad.org/scouts.