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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

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Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.


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Cities and School Districts Across America: Reacting to the BSA's Bigoted Policy


Wilton Manors may ban Boy Scouts from city buildings, parks for anti-gay policy

By MEGAN O'MATZ Sun-Sentinel
July 27, 2000

They lost in court, but gay rights advocates may have found a way to sanction the Boy Scouts of America for its ban on homosexuals: hit the troops in the wallet.

Across the country, efforts are under way to convince public officials to withhold tax dollars from the badge-earning youths.

"The goal is to get the Boy Scouts to change their policy," said Wilton Manors Councilman Gary Resnick, who on Tuesday asked the city attorney to draft a proposed ordinance barring groups that discriminate against gays from receiving city funds and meeting in public parks and buildings for free.

While the ordinance would not single out the Boy Scouts, and other council members suggested that it be broadened to include groups that discriminate in any manner, Resnick had only the Scouts in mind. "This is sort of in reaction to that Supreme Court ruling," he said.

In June, the nation's high court ruled 5-4 that the Scouts have a constitutional right to exclude openly gay men from serving as troop leaders.

The decision appears to have energized a movement to, in effect, make the Boy Scouts pay.

In Tucson, Ariz., the city council is considering a recommendation from its Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Issues to refrain from contributing tax dollars to groups, such as the United Way, that, in turn, fund discriminatory groups.

In jeopardy is $1.7 million a year the city directs to the United Way, including $29,000 that is steered to the Boy Scouts.

Similarly, in Michigan the Triangle Foundation, a gay civil rights group, has asked Detroit's mayor to revoke $50,000 in aid to the Boy Scouts, noting the city charter prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. "If they want to discriminate they have that right," said Jeffrey Montgomery, Triangle's executive director. "But I think they should now have to put their money where their mouth is."

While the Boy Scouts may suffer financially for their court victory in cities like Tucson, the practical effect of the Wilton Manors proposal may be nil.

There is only one Boy Scout group in the city: a Cub Scout pack. Its 24 boys and 10 leaders do not meet in a public building but at St. Clement's Roman Catholic Church.

And the pack, which has been in existence for 30 years, receives no funds from the city, according to city officials and Boy Scout representatives.


"The effect of this won't be as strong as, potentially, the message that it sends out," admitted Resnick, one of three openly gay members of the city's five-person council.

In particular, Resnick hopes that other government groups and related agencies will follow Wilton Manors' lead.

"If Broward County adopts something similar, it might have a more practical effect than Wilton Manors, or if the United Way decides to drop the Boy Scouts from its list of organizations eligible for funds," Resnick said. But Jeff Herrmann, scout executive for the South Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America, said municipalities in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties do not give charitable contributions to the Scouts, but, instead, award "fee-for-service" contracts that would be difficult to break.

For example, the Scouts received $119,000 from the Broward County Children's Services Board this year to provide summer programs for juvenile delinquents in 11 zip codes, Herrmann said.

"If people decide, for whatever reason, they wanted to no longer fund the Boy Scouts ... ultimately the people who are going to be hurt are going to be primarily minority children in severely at-risk neighborhoods," he said.

More significant than the service contracts, however, are the funds directed to the Boy Scouts through the United Way.

Roughly 18 percent of the council's operating budget comes from United Way organizations in the three counties, Herrmann said.

This year, for instance, the United Way of Miami-Dade County granted the Boy Scouts $540,000, said Tamara Klingler, the county's United Way senior vice president.

The contribution from the United Way of Broward County is $119,000, Herrmann said.

"We've got a wonderful relationship with the United Way, and have received no indication that that's going to change anytime soon," he said.

Bob MacConnell, president and CEO of the United Way of Broward County, said a few individuals do not want their contributions to go to the Boy Scouts.

However, he said, "We're not being pressured not to fund the Boy Scouts."

Nonetheless, a committee within the agency will soon examine the United Way's non-discrimination policy, which currently does not address sexual orientation, said MacConnell, who stressed that the review is not related to the Boy Scouts controversy.

In Boston, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay is considering how it can ensure that its policy of non-discrimination, which includes sexual orientation, is not being violated by five local Boy Scout councils that signed agreements to honor the United Way's policy.

"We expect the outcome of this review will be determined by the end of August," the United Way group said in a prepared statement released July 21.


Resnick, meanwhile, said his attempt to restrict benefits to the Boy Scouts is not intended to hurt children.

"It's just to send a message that the public doesn't accept the Boy Scouts' policy."



Lauderdale vice mayor: Cut off funding for Boy Scouts because of anti-gay policy

By MEGAN O'MATZ Sun-Sentinel
July 28, 2000

Joining a growing chorus of local officials concerned about the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy, Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Tim Smith said Thursday he will oppose funding for the organization in September when the city considers its fiscal 2000-01 budget.

"I don't think gays and lesbians are a danger to our children," he said, calling the Boy Scouts' refusal to allow openly gay men to serve as troop leaders "mean-spirited."

"It's divisive, and I don't think the city should be a part of it. It's prejudiced and it's discriminatory," said Smith, one of five votes on the City Commission.

On Tuesday, Wilton Manors Councilman Gary Resnick asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting funding to groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation. He said the move was aimed at the Boy Scouts of America, which won the right to restrict gay participation under a June ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Resnick's action, reported Thursday in the Sun-Sentinel, prompted several of Smith's constituents to ask that he, too, push for an end to public funding of the Scouts. Smith represents District 2, which includes Victoria Park, home to a sizable gay population.

While not commenting on how he will vote until he hears from the Boy Scouts, Commissioner Carlton Moore, who is black, said: "I have been discriminated against. I have never been supportive of situations that discriminate."

The South Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America has asked Fort Lauderdale for $10,000 in the upcoming fiscal year to support an in-school program serving disabled and at-risk youths.

In the spring, the city's Community Service Advisory Board recommended that commissioners approve $4,167 of the request. The commission will take up the matter during budget hearings Sept. 11 and 19.
Jeffrie Herrmann, scout executive for the council, which oversees Scouting in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, said eliminating any funding would only hurt disadvantaged children.

To qualify for city funding, groups are asked to submit a narrative describing their equal employment opportunity, affirmative action and nondiscrimination policies.

Fort Lauderdale assistant budget director Patricia Rupprecht said the statements must comply with Broward County's nondiscrimination policy, which covers a host of categories, including sexual orientation.

The Scouts' application states that its equal opportunity employment policy applies to "race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital or veteran status, physical and mental handicap ... and citizenship status." It does not mention sexual orientation.

Herrmann said the county attorney told the Scouts they nonetheless comply because they are "not a public accommodation and therefore do not fit into that broad category by the county legislation."

Scott Thomason, owner of a Boca Raton plumbing company, said it's "ludicrous" to cut funds to the Boy Scouts.

Thomason's son, Scott, 12, is a Scout in Delray Beach. "He's learned to respect others," Thomason said. "It's given him self-esteem."

MIAMI HERALD, August 8, 2000
Miami, FL

Scouts' gay ban imperils funding Cities, county to review policies on discrimination

BY DANIEL de VISE

The Boy Scouts, an organization known for outdoor sleepovers and escorting elderly ladies across streets, finds itself tangled in an unlikely knot of controversy in Broward.

And it's all thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A high court ruling in June upheld the scouting organization's longtime ban on gay Scouts. Now, civic leaders in Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors are talking about denying tax dollars to the venerable organization.

Gary Resnick, vice mayor of Wilton Manors, has asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would deny city dollars to groups that discriminate against lesbians and gays. The measure, which goes before the City Council on Aug. 22, would forbid such organizations to use public facilities at no charge.

''They say their mission is to teach leadership and citizenship,'' Resnick said. ''How can you teach leadership and citizenship when you're discriminating against a broad group of people?''

The action pits Wilton Manors, a booming Broward bedroom community known for coffeehouses, vintage stores, and a gay-majority city council, against Boy Scout Troop 519, a fixture in the city since the 1960s.

''The troop has been here for over 30 years. It's not like we're moving in here and trying to change things,'' said Martin Shapiro, scoutmaster of Troop 519. ''For us, nothing has changed.''

The battle is largely symbolic. Troop 519 meets at St. Clement's Catholic Church. Wilton Manors gives neither money nor space to the troop. The ordinance, if passed, would have only an indirect effect on the Scouts. For example, it might bar the United Way from soliciting city employees for donations if the charity passed some of that money to the Scouts.

But the stakes could rise. A Fort Lauderdale city commissioner last week vowed to oppose that city's annual funding to the Scouts. And trustees of the United Way of Broward County, which gives $119,000 annually to the Scouts, will meet this week to review its non-discrimination policy.

Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Tim Smith said several constituents urged him to oppose giving the Scouts $4,167 in proposed city funding. Smith represents Victoria Park, a community near downtown with a large gay and lesbian population.

''It's not fair for our taxpayers, some of whom -- quite a few -- are gay and lesbian, to take some of their tax dollars and give them to an organization that says, 'You can't participate,' '' Smith said.

A second Fort Lauderdale commissioner, Carlton Moore, has hinted that he might vote with Smith. City policy, he said, already forbids philanthropic gifts to groups that discriminate.

''I do not support discrimination in any form,'' Moore said. But he stressed that he wants to hear from Boy Scout leaders before deciding how to vote in September budget meetings.

Scout leaders say the loss of civic funds would hurt the children most in need of their services. Fort Lauderdale's annual Scout budget pays for programs serving children who are disabled or who live in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Faced with similar challenges across the nation in recent weeks, Scout leaders have held firm.

''This is a national policy of the Boy Scouts of America, and we will not deviate from those guidelines,'' said Jeff Hunt, director of operations for 12,000 Scouts in Broward and 36,000 across South Florida. ''We respect the rights of individuals and groups that hold values different than our own. However, we expect them to respect us.''

The Boy Scouts won a Supreme Court victory in the case of gay Scout leader James Dale of New Jersey in June. But they now risk losing the support of civic leaders who have come to believe the group practices discrimination.

The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which argued Dale's case before the Supreme Court, has urged cities and private groups nationwide to sever their financial ties with the Scouts. Leaders in Detroit, Tucson, Ariz., and other cities are reconsidering their support to the Scouts.

In Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-California, introduced legislation last month calling for the revocation of the Boy Scouts' 84-year-old federal charter.

But the Boy Scouts haven't budged.

''We're not trying to impose our values,'' said Hunt, director of the South Florida Boy Scouts. ''We're asking them to respect our values.''

 

 

 

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