Merck Foundation Suspends Funding to Boy Scouts of America until Ban on Gay Scouts And Leaders Ends

The Merck Foundation became the latest corporate leader to speak out against the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. The Merck Foundation announced that it will suspend all funding to the BSA and will consider funding the organization again when the BSA ends the discriminatory ban. The Merck Foundation joins other BSA sponsors including the Intel Foundation and the UPS Foundation in choosing to provide financial support to only those organizations that align with the company’s non-discrimination policy.

You can read a letter from Brian Grill of the Merck Foundation on Scouts for Equality's site.

In a statement on Merck’s site, they explained:

The BSA's policy of exclusion based on sexual orientation directly conflicts with the Merck Foundation’s giving guidelines.  The Foundation re-evaluated funding for the BSA when the organization restated its policy that excludes members on the basis of sexual orientation.  Merck Foundation has notified the BSA of this decision.

As part of the broader review of funding decisions in 2013, the Foundation is currently assessing all current and future funding commitments to ensure that it is not funding organizations with policies contrary to its own.

In June of this year, Merck & Company chairman and CEO Kenneth C. Frazier was honored with the “Good Scout” Award by Philadelphia’s Cradle of Liberty Boy Scout Council. Frazier grew up in North Philadelphia and has credited Scouting as being instrumental in his life.

Last week founder of Scouts for Equality Zach Wahls launched a petition calling on Verizon to suspend funding to the BSA. Despite more than 60,000 signatures, Verizon has yet to respond. On its website, the Verizon Foundation states that only those organizations which "serve the community without discrimination," including on the basis of sexual orientation, are eligible to receive funding. Yet, Verizon gave more than $315,000 in grants to the Boy Scouts in 2010, despite the BSA's anti-gay policies.

You can add your name to the petition here.

As part of our campaign to end the discriminatory ban, GLAAD, along with Scouts for Equality, is continuing to contact corporate sponsors of the Boy Scouts of America to inform of them of the BSA’s ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.

Wahls, an Eagle Scout, responded to the news from Merck today:

“I am thrilled that Merck & Company -- a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical giant -- has announced its foundation arm is immediately withdrawing funding from the Boy Scouts of America until the program ends its anti-gay membership policy. Now it’s Verizon’s turn to join the growing list of political and corporate leaders urging the Boy Scouts of America to save the organization from itself.”

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said:

"These companies are helping to bring change to the Boy Scouts of America by speaking out against the discriminatory policy and in support of the young people who are harmed by it. The Boy Scouts of America should take the health of their organization into account and focus making scouting open to all, rather than working to keep an outdated and unpopular ban in place."

In September 2012, the Intel Foundation said that the company could no longer fund organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, so long as the Scouts stand by their ban. BSA troops and councils around the country that have stated they will not adhere to the ban may still receive support from the Intel Foundation. More than 80,000 people signed a petition started by Co-Founder of Scouts for Equality, Zach Wahls, and supported by GLAAD, which called on The UPS Foundation to end funding from the national BSA. In October, the UPS Foundation adopted a new policy and confirmed to GLAAD that under these guidelines, which UPS said have been in development for several months, organizations that are unable to attest to having a policy or practices that align with the Foundation’s non-discrimination policy will no longer be considered eligible for funding.

The CEOs of two major companies -- AT&T and Ernst & Young -- called for an end to the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policies earlier this year. AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, and Ernst & Young’s CEO, James Turley, both sit on the national board of the Boy Scouts of America.

GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end their ban on gay scouts and scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her 7-year-old’s Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s petition has attracted more than 330,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

Jennifer has spoken out on the growing list of sponsors that are withholding funds from the BSA:

"We are finally heading in the right direction in this country and that is the direction of equality for all. It is time that the BSA respects the needs of the American people and stops rejected devoted parents and scouts because they happen to be LGBT. Until the BSA joins the national trend of equality, sponsors of the organization should continue to withhold support or support the growing number of troops that have rejected the ban."

GLAAD and Scouts for Equality have also called attention to the Americans who are continuing to be harmed by the anti-gay policy, including Kentucky dad Greg Bourke who was ousted from his son’s troop this summer and launched a campaign to be reinstated as well as 18 year-old Ryan Andresen whose mother started a petition which is at over 425,000 signatures after he was denied an the rank of Eagle Scout because he is gay. Last week, Ryan was honored by the California Assembly.

Earlier this year President Obama, who serves as honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America, publicly opposed the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy.