The United Way of York County is planning to meet this week with officials from the York-area Boy Scouts of America -- New Birth of Freedom Council to discuss its controversial position on openly gay youth and adults.
The council covers about 11,400 Scouts in York, Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Perry and Adams counties; the York meeting comes several weeks after the United Way of the Capital Region, which covers the Harrisburg area, voted to suspend its partnership with the scouting group starting Jan. 1 until it repeals the gay ban.
United Way of York County, like the Capital Region chapter of the charity coalition, has a policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation, said Robert Woods, executive director
of the York chapter. Woods said the York meeting will be used for "information gathering," but he declined to comment about what course of action could follow the meeting or when.
Losing support: The Boy Scouts, after reaffirming the ban in July, have lost or are in jeopardy of losing partnerships with several United Way chapters across the United States because of conflicting viewpoints.
Last year, the United Way of York's community fund contributed about $165,000 to the local Boy Scouts, Woods said. A separate fund, through which employees designated their donations to go directly to the local Scouts, totaled about $86,000.
In areas where partnerships are not renewed, the Boy Scouts could keep only the designated funds and would not be eligible for community funds.
The United Way of York County has been collecting funds for the council since its inception in 1921, Woods said.
"We have not had any discussions to pull their funding," Woods said. "We'll be talking with them about their policies relative to discriminating against people based on sexual orientation."
He said United Way officials want to discuss "the practical application of the policy and exactly what is the policy of the Boy Scouts relative to homosexuals."
"What would happen if a boy did in fact 'come out' in a troop?" Woods asked.
He said he didn't know whether it would be a single meeting or a series of meetings, or when a decision could be made.
The York chapter of the United Way started discussions with the New Birth of Freedom Council after the Capital Region group made its decision, Woods said.
No local control: Ron Gardner, Scout executive with the council, confirmed there was a meeting in York this week but said he doesn't "read anything into it beyond that at this point.
"Here in our council, we have no control over the national's policy," he said. "We don't have a say on which (policies) we choose to follow."
He declined to say whether he thinks the local council would overturn the ban if it were a local decision, saying studies have shown many scouting parents want it to remain in place.
Gardner said Boy Scouts doesn't "proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members." A scouting leader who "came out" would be dismissed and, while the national policy calls for dismissal of gay Boy Scouts as well, he would consider the cases of younger Scouts to be more of a gray area.
"It depends on the age of the Scout," he said. "All of these things are speculative. Every case would be different. The last thing we want to do is move a boy out of scouting. But the policy as it's written by national is pretty clear."
He couldn't say at which age a boy should be removed for saying he's gay -- and the national organization has handed down no guidelines of a "template" -- but he said discussion would include whether the boy knew what he was saying. In a case where a boy "came out," officials would talk to Scout leaders and the boy's family, and the case would be forwarded to the national level of the Boy Scouts organization, he said.
Lost funding: The New Birth of Freedom Council will have to compensate for lost funding if the national Boy Scouts organization doesn't repeal its policy and the Capital Region suspends the partnership, Gardner said.
Scouting families will be informed of the potential shortfall and encouraged to exercise their option to designate funds directly through United Way, he said, but he declined to discuss how the pulled support could affect scouting.
"I don't want to speculate at this point what will happen," he said. "We want to make sure the programs we're offering for young people right now are not impacted by what happened."
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.