UPS cuts off funding to Boy Scouts for discriminatation

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Zack Wahls. -PHOTO: Leslie Von Pless/Lambda Legal

The philanthropic arm of UPS said it will cease contributions to the Boy Scouts of America as long as the group discriminates against gays, The Associated Press reported.

UPS is the second major corporation to recently strip funding from the Scouts. Computer chip maker Intel has taken the same action.

 UPS and Intel changed course after Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout with two mothers and founder of the group Scouts for Equality, began online petitions this fall at Change.org calling for corporations to end their financial support of the Boy Scouts. The petition attracted more than 80,000 signatures.

Other groups took up the cause, including the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which has highlighted the case of an Ohio mother barred from volunteering with her son's Cub Scout pack because she is a lesbian.

The Atlanta-based UPS Foundation gave more than $85,000 to the Boy Scouts in 2011, according to its federal tax return.

"Corporate America gets it better than most: policies that discriminate aren't simply wrong, they're bad for business and they're hurting the scouting community," Wahls said following the UPS announcement. "You would think that after all the Boy Scouts have lost as a result of this policy, they would understand that."

UPS spokeswoman Kristen Petrella said groups applying for the foundation grants will have to adhere to the same standards UPS does by not discriminating against anyone based on race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

"We promote an environment of diversity and inclusion," Petrella said. “UPS is a company that does the right things for the right reasons."

Petrella said the company had been concerned about discrimination by the Boy Scouts before the petition drive.

The Boy Scouts said this summer it was sticking with the divisive, long-standing policy of excluding openly gay youth and adults as members and leaders.

Deron Smith, the director of public relations for the Irving, Texas-based Boy Scouts of America, said the group was disappointed about the decision from UPS.

"These types of contributions go directly to serving young people in local councils and this decision will negatively impact youth," Smith said. "Through 110,000 units, scouting represents millions of youth and adult members in diverse communities across the nation, each with a variety of beliefs on this topic."

The policy of excluding gays has come under increased scrutiny within the last month, as thousands of confidential files released as part of a lawsuit show top Boy Scout leaders for decades carefully tracked thousands of scoutmasters and volunteers who sexually abused boys in their care but routinely failed to report those individuals to law enforcement.