SUNBURY — The Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way Board voted Tuesday not to release discretionary funding to the Susquehanna Council of Boy Scouts of America. These dollars were behind held while the national Boy Scouts of America organization reviewed its policy of not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals.
More than $11,000 in discretionary funding will be withheld.
The United Way board action to not release discretionary funding was in response to the recent decision at the national Scouting level to partly change its long-standing membership policy. The new policy states that youth members will not be excluded based on sexual orientation, but maintains a membership ban on open or avowed homosexual adults.
“We applaud the Boy Scout organization for including gay youth, but without any rationale, they’ve excluded gay adults,” said Keri Albright, President and CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way.
United Way has a Diversity & Inclusion policy that means resources will support and fund partners that provide programs to individuals regardless of sexual orientation, among other factors. The majority of the United Way Board did not feel the local Council’s policy met United Way’s standards and mission, Albright said. “It’s a reality that some discrimination is still lawful, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” added Albright.
“People ask us, why stop funding the Boy Scouts now?” said Eric Rowe, United Way Board Chair. “We’ve long funded the local Council on the belief – and through conversations – that they don’t discriminate. However, when asked if they would state that publicly, they declined. As a Board, we’re also thinking about the young Scout with a gay parent who wants to be a volunteer leader. The message that’s being sent to that kid now is that his dad is not okay if he’s gay, perpetuating a stereotype that United Way can’t support.”
Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way has been distributing donations specifically designated to the Susquehanna Council in payments that began in March. United Way will continue to do so, until those designations are paid in full. United Way will also continue to honor designations specifically in future campaigns, and as always, the application process reopens annually.
“The Boy Scouts undeniably have a long history of positively affecting both youth and adults, so this decision is less about other organizations and more about how Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way will lead in the communities we serve,” said Albright. “We fund programs that reflect the value and practice of welcoming people of diverse backgrounds. We’re not straight adults or gay adults. We’re adults. There is strength in unity and that’s what we’re promoting.”