NEW YORK, NY – More than 58,000 people have joined a rapidly-growing campaign on Change.org urging Verizon Communications Inc. to stop funding the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) until the organization removes its ban on gay youth and leaders.
Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, launched the campaign on Change.org just days after UPS, a large corporate donor of the Boy Scouts, updated its funding guidelines to exclude organizations that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, including the Boy Scouts. The UPS Foundation joined Intel Foundation, which donated nearly $700,000 to the Boy Scouts in 2010, after Wahls launched similar petitions urging the corporations to stop funding the Boy Scouts until the Scouts pull their anti-gay policy. The Verizon Foundation gave more than $315,000 in grants to the Boy Scouts in 2010, despite having an explicit policy of not donating to groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
“Sensible corporations like Intel and UPS have already paused their funding until the BSA ends its exclusionary policy, and now it’s time for Verizon to do the same,” said Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls, who launched the campaign on Change.org. “As far back as 2001, the American Medical Association has been urging the Boy Scouts to end its anti-gay policy because of the psychological trauma it could cause young people. Does Verizon really want to be responsible for funding this hurtful and potentially dangerous policy?”
In October, Bay Area teenager Ryan Andresen was denied his Eagle award, the Boy Scouts’ highest rank, because of his sexual orientation. His mother launched a petition urging Ryan’s Boy Scout troop not to reject her son’s application and to give him the award he’s worked 12 years for, which included the completion of a capstone service project: an anti-bullying “Tolerance Wall” at a local middle school.
“The Boy Scouts are certainly worthy of significant corporate support, but not while the organization is upholding a policy that’s hurting young people while violating Verizon’s own non-discrimination policy and funding guidelines,” added Wahls.
In addition to Scouts and Scout leaders, Wahls’ petition is also garnering support from Verizon customers. Christie Draper of Aliso Viejo, California, left a comment on the petition stating that she doesn’t support Verizon’s decision to fund the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy: “Our family uses Verizon: each of our three sons included, one of which is gay. Two of them are Eagle Scouts and one is 13 and is a Life Scout. We fully support a full financial boycott of Boy Scouts until they change their bigoted and discriminatory ways.”
Karen Wills, a Verizon customer from Bloomington, Minnesota, said in her comment: "As a former Girl Scout leader, I know how important scouts can be in a child's life... I'm a Verizon customer and I want you to pull your funding until the national Boy Scout Organization renounces discrimination."
Like Intel and UPS, Verizon received a high score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, an in-depth annual report analyzing hundreds of companies on LGBT-related policies and practices. Verizon’s website also has a special section devoted to their diversity initiatives, and the company has an active lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans employee network called GLOBE of Verizon.
Wahls, an Eagle Scout and son of two gay moms whose speech in support of marriage equality was YouTube's most watched political video in 2011, launched Scouts for Equality after delivering nearly 300,000 Change.org petition signatures to the Boy Scouts of America on behalf of Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mom and den leader from Ohio who was removed from her 7-year-old’s Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Together, Wahls and Tyrrell—in conjunction with California Scout Ryan Andresen and Kentucky Scoutmaster Greg Bourke—have led Change.org petition campaigns attracting more than 1.1 million signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
GLAAD, which initially broke the story of Jennifer Tyrrell’s removal from her son’s Cub Scout pack, joined Wahls and Scouts for Equality in urging corporations to pull funding from the Boy Scouts while their anti-gay policy remains intact.
"Corporate leaders like Verizon know that discriminating against LGBT people is wrong for their customers, employees and business," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "Our conversations with other leaders in corporate America have sent a message that the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policy hurts young gay people and needs to change. Verizon's silence is heard throughout the community and the time is now for them to join their peers in standing up for gay youth in scouting."
Journalists interested in setting up an interview with Zach Wahls should use the contact details at the top of the page.
Live signature totals from Zach Wahls’ campaign:
Associated Press coverage of UPS’ decision to discontinue funding the Boy Scouts:
American Independent report on Boy Scouts’ corporate donors: