- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2014

Walt Disney World has decided to drop a Florida Boy Scouts council as a recognized charity for its employees, according to a Scouting memo posted on a gay-friendly website.

The policy change, announced months after the national scouting organization said it would accept openly gay Scouts but preserve a ban on gay adult leaders, means Walt Disney World will not recognize the volunteer hours its 60,000-plus employees give the Central Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

The corporate giant — whose Orlando park is a major destination for “Gay Day” events in early June — will also no longer offer the council or its units grant funding, apparently a signal that the BSA decision, by keeping the adult ban, did not go far enough.

A BSA spokesman confirmed the action Thursday.

“While Disney does not provide support to the national council or directly to local councils of the BSA, they did occasionally provide small grants to local Scout troops and packs through an employee program that recognized the volunteer service hours of its employees,” said Deron Smith, director of BSA public relations.

“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,” he said.

A call to Walt Disney World was not immediately returned.

The Walt Disney Company says on its website that its “EARS to You” program “recognizes employees’ volunteerism through financial contributions to the eligible charities of their choice.”

The company is a top-ranked gay-friendly employer, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and in 2013, openly gay executive George Kalogridis was announced as president of Walt Disney World.

News of the policy change appeared on websites, including Scouts for Equality, an advocacy group started by Eagle Scout Zach Wahls to get the BSA to change their previous restrictive membership policies on gays.

While the BSA voted in 2013 to permit openly gay youth to be part of Scouts, it retained its ban on homosexual adults as employees, leaders and volunteers. Mr. Wahls said the change did not go far enough, as it means his two lesbian mothers remain banned from being part of his Scouting experience.

In a memo posted on Scouts for Equality, Robert Utsey, president of the Central Florida Council Board, told local leaders and parents about the policy change.

“It has recently come to our attention” that the grant program called “EARS to You,” provided by Walt Disney World to their employees, “will be discontinued for Scouting volunteers,” the memo said.

Although local and national BSA leaders reached out to Walt Disney World to “resolve the situation,” “their views do not currently align with the BSA and they are choosing to discontinue this level of support,” the memo said. “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.”

Scouts for Equality said that seven major corporate sponsors of BSA “have ended their partnerships” with the BSA since 2012, including Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Major League Soccer, Merck, Intel and UPS.

“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,” said Mr. Wahls.

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