Walt Disney World pulls support from Orlando Boy Scouts chapters

031413 Spring Travel orlando cover image web.jpgThe House of Mouse has this week dealt a blow to Orlando-area Boy Scouts of America groups by pulling funding from all chapters it currently supports through its “Ears to You” grant program. Under the scheme, WDW would donate money to an organization its employees volunteer for — think of it like employer gift-matching. However, there are limits to whom money can be donated, including any organization which discriminates “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.” That includes the BSA.

Boy Scouts of America is under intense criticism to reverse its outdated policies on openly gay Scouts. A vote last year allowed current members, including Pascal Tessier who became the poster child for the movement, to serve openly, but retained a rule which would force any openly gay Scout to leave on their 18th birthday, preventing them from becoming a troop leader. That retained policy, it would seem, has ran afoul of WDW. The Walt Disney Company‘s history of LGBT support is infamous: every year, tens of thousands of LGBT people flock to Orlando for Disney’s unofficial, annual “gay days” celebration. The company has also provided benefits to same-sex partners of employees since 1995, allows same-sex weddings on park premises, and the Walt Disney Company’s “Standards of Business Conduct” include protections against “harassment or discrimination” based on ”sex, sexual orientation, and gender identification,” among others.

The Wrap shared an email sent by BSA Central Florida Council Board President Robert Utsey to local members which reads: “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. The National BSA Council has reached out to [Walt Disney World] to try to resolve the situation, however, according to WDW, their views do not currently align with the BSA and they are choosing to discontinue this level of support.”

Scouts for Equality, the national campaign to end discrimination within the Boy Scouts of America, co-founder Zach Wahls welcomed Disney’s new stance. “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,” Wahls said in a statement on the organization’s website. “Scouts for Equality will continue to advocate for a fully inclusive membership policy, to help build a stronger Scouting community that is eligible for the support of Corporate America.”

Disney, which produced the Scouting film Follow Me, Boys! in 1966, joins several companies that have pulled support for funding from the BSA over its discriminating practices, including Lockheed Martin, Major League Soccer, Intel and UPS.

Image Credit: Julian Vankim

Rhuaridh Marr is one of Metro Weekly's contributing editors and covers cars, technology, gaming and world news. He is usually found with a game controller in one hand and a smartphone in the other and can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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