Boy Scouts’ LGBT Discrimination Causes Most Generous Donor, Intel, To Bail

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls founder of Scouts for Equality (left) and Intel

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls founder of Scouts for Equality (left) and Intel

As reported by Andy Birkey at The American Independent, and reprinted by The New Civil Rights Movement, Intel “was one of the Boy Scouts of America’s largest corporate donors in 2010, giving over $700,000 to local troops and councils as matching grants for employees’ volunteer work,” but they have now announced that all recipients of their charitable largesse will be required to sign a letter signifying a willingness to comply with Intel’s corporate policy, which forbids discrimination “on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran, or disability statuses.” Intel’s generous gift was given to several Boy Scout troops (not the national organization itself) despite the Scouts’ exclusionary stance towards gays and lesbians.

Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts For Equality, started a petition urging Intel to rethink its generosity, given that the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy directly conflicted with the company’s more progressive stance…and Intel did. As Lucas Grindley at The Advocate explains, activist Wahls is “an Eagle Scout raised by two lesbian moms. He first got involved in the cause against the Scouts, which bans gays and lesbians from being troops or leaders, after [his] mother Jennifer Tyrrell was removed as a den leader earlier this year. […] Wahls has pushed local chapters to denounce the national policy and go their own way.”

Zach Wahls and his moms

The Boy Scouts’ policy states, in part: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

One troop has already sent Intel a response in hopes of opening a dialogue and perhaps getting Intel to rethink its decision, stating, in part: “Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics.”

This, of course, does not address the issue of discrimination adequately: it is fine if Scout parents or troop leaders choose to discuss or not discuss LGBT topics as a matter of personal preference, and no one is asking the Boy Scouts to hold educational seminars about sexual orientation. The concern most people have is that the Boy Scouts make a point of excluding LGBT people from participation in Scouting altogether, even if the LGBT individual is a parent wishing to volunteer. There is a difference between “introducing and discussing” the topic and the Boy Scouts excluding, discriminating against, or making a point of treating LGBT individuals differently than non-LGBT people.

Per The American Independent’s Birkey:

When asked about the Intel’s funding policies, Intel Foundation executive director Wendy Ramage-Hawkins [said]: “All organizations seeking financial support from the Intel Foundation are required to affirm their compliance with Intel’s non-discrimination corporate donation policy. Organizations that cannot affirm their compliance will not receive funding from the Intel Foundation.

[Ramage-Hawkins] clarified that the Intel Foundation will be asking for a statement of agreement with their nondiscrimination policy in the next grant cycle but had not done so in the past. “We have not previously asked for affirmation, so this will be the first time the question is raised,” she said.

If a particular Boy Scout troop refuses to sign Intel’s letter, signifying its willingness to comply with their anti-discrimination standards, Intel will not grant that troop any charitable donations. No signature, no money. This could hit the Boy Scouts right where it hurts: in the wallet.

Chart by Think Progress

Chart by Think Progress


LGBT advocates, including Wahls and The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), are applauding Intel’s decision. Wahls said, “Intel made the right decision here, in order to live up to their corporate values of diversity, equality and individual liberty. Companies that support the LGBT community simply can’t be in the business of funding organizations that discriminate. Frankly, by sending this message, Intel is upholding the true spirit of Scouting better than the BSA is today.”

Zack Ford at Think Progress shared a statement from Intel’s Chief Diversity Officer, Rosalind Hudnell:

Intel and the Intel Foundation give millions of dollars annually to great organizations doing valuable service around the globe. Intel has not provided funding to the National Boy Scouts of America organization. The $700,000 in funding from the Intel Foundation was donated to local Boy Scout troops or councils where our employees volunteer their time, through our volunteer matching grants program.

In an effort to recognize our employees’ commitment to the communities we call home, Intel expanded its volunteer matching grants program in 2009. Through it, Intel matches the amount of time employees’ volunteer with non-profits with dollars from the Intel Foundation. Due to significant growth in the number of organizations funded, earlier this year we revisited our policies associated with the program, and applied new rigor that requires any organization to confirm that it adheres to Intel’s anti-discrimination policy in order to receive funding. Intel is committed to fostering a culture of inclusion and to supporting the communities in which we live and work.

Scott Wooledge at DailyKOS expressed his opinion:

Bigger than the single financial hit [due to losing Intel’s donations], this announcement will provide pressure down the donation chain. Like Intel, they will be under pressure to be sure their corporate sponsorship comports with their own corporate culture. Many, perhaps most, of those corporations have non-discrimination [policies] that put them at odds with the BSA.

It’s also a pretty public black eye on the BSA, rather like when the president of the James Beard Foundation, Susan Ungaro, returned an award because she wished to express her disapproval. It is fast becoming unfashionable to have discriminatory policies such as the Boy Scouts practice; if they wish to stay relevant, they will have to evolve.

Next up is UPS, which “has made clear that it will continue to donate to the Boy Scouts” and which “donated $167,000 […] in 2010 and about $85,000 in 2011”. Wahls and other equal rights activists now hope to encourage UPS to join Intel and other socially progressive corporations and to also consider rethinking their financial support for the Boy Scouts, as their donations currently tacitly support the Boy Scouts’ intolerance towards LGBT people.

“All of the great work that the BSA does to help young people will continue to be overshadowed by their blatant discrimination until they join other inclusive national organizations like the Girl Scouts of the USA and the 4-H Club,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “The time is now for the BSA to side with fairness, otherwise they will continue to see sponsors and scouting families drop their support.”

Wahls speaking at the Democratic National Convention


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