'Tis the season to think before you give
By: Gip Plaster
For many, the holiday season is a time of giving back, often in the form of charitable giving. But many gay men and lesbians are surprised to learn that the popular charities they've supported in the past have anti-gay policies or maintain close ties with anti-gay groups.
And the Atlanta area Boy Scouts may receive even more money next year than this year from the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, despite a Boy Scouts ban on participation by gay men and boys. The Boy Scouts even trumpet the gay ban in fund-raising to conservative mailing lists.
United Way stands by Scouts
In 1999, Atlanta area councils of Boy Scouts of America received almost $1.9 million from United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta. Funding for 2000 could be even greater.
Atlanta United Way's fund-raising goal for their campaign ending this month is $77.5 million, a goal they expect to exceed. Because of changes in the way money is allocated, local Boy
Scouts councils could get additional funding.
"There's a possibility for an increase if they have a new program that fits within one of our key areas for an increase," said Monica Glass-Thornton, spokesperson for United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.
Glass-Thornton said that United Way encourages Boy Scouts of
America to include gay men and boys, but in Atlanta funding will not be pulled if they do not.
"We continue to hold our position that we want them to make policies that are more inclusive," she said. "We wouldn't take funding away if they opened up to including others."
While United Way funds many
important charitable causes, including HIV/AIDS service agencies, Boy Scouts continue to be a major recipient of funding in many cities, and is among the biggest recipients in Atlanta. And the money continues to flow despite a funding restriction on groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Policies vary at United Way affiliates around the nation. A few, including some in California and the
Northeast, have withdrawn financial support for the Boy Scouts, but most hold positions similar to the one taken in Atlanta.
Each of the nation's 1,400 United Way chapters make its own decision about what groups to fund and whether to affiliate with the United Way of America.
The national United Way organization offers
domestic partner benefits to the 190 employees at its headquarters. It also has an employment nondiscrimination policy that includes protection based on sexual orientation and a diversity statement that specifically mentions sexual orientation.
Boy Scouts of America has defended its prohibition of gays by pointing to the Scout Oath, which calls on scouts to be "morally straight."
Some, however, contend that at the time the oath was written, "straight" did not have the same meaning it does today.
Whatever the reasoning, BSA continues to discriminate against gays, despite a New Jersey court ruling against the organization in that state.
The BSA announced in August that it was initiating a study into the causes of homosexuality and the consequences for funding if the ban stays in place, but BSA officials did not return calls requesting information about the status of the investigation.