SEE ALSO: EDITORIAL: Scouts close to doing the right thing

The Boy Scouts of America's national decision on gays could save United Way of York County funding for the local Scouts.

In November, the local chapter of the United Way told York area's New Birth of Freedom Council it will give the group until 2016 to either change its policy banning openly gay youth and adults or lose its United Way funding. The conflict arose because United Way has a policy against discrimination for sexual orientation.

While there was little the local council could do in response because it had to obey orders from the national executive board, the national on Monday outlined a proposed change. If adopted, it will allow the religious and civic groups that sponsor troops to decide for themselves whether to continue banning gays or offer them membership. The vote from the scouting board, which has been under fire and losing funding from groups across the country, is expected next week.

A vote to allow troops to accept gays might pass muster with the local United Way board, assuming there would be York-area troops deciding to allow gays, said Robert J. Woods, executive director of United Way of York County.

United Way gives funding to the council, not the local troops, he said. The United Way board would have to decide whether the proposed change, if approved, would be enough to signal inclusion instead of discrimination.


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"I don't know for absolute surety, but I don't see that the counsel itself would be discriminating based on sexual orientation in that there would be access to all people because you know in the community there would be some troops open to gay people," Woods said. "We have a community that's diversified, and I can't imagine that there wouldn't be several."

Change would be 'huge': While there could still be local troops that banned gays, Woods said the changes being considered on the national level are "huge" for the Boy Scouts as an organization.

"They're definitely moving in the right direction," he said.

How local troops would make the decision isn't clear.

Asked for comment, New Birth of Freedom executive and CEO Ronald Gardner, Jr. said he couldn't provide details until after next week's vote.

"This is an internal national policy discussion, and no decision has been made," he said. "I can say that local councils agree to support the decisions made by the volunteer national executive board. Our united focus is on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values based leadership training."

In 2011, the United Way of York's community fund contributed about $165,000 to the local Boy Scouts. A separate fund, through which employees designated their donations to go directly to the local Scouts, totaled about $86,000, Woods said.

The New Birth of Freedom Council covers about 11,400 Scouts in York, Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Perry and Adams counties.

The United Way had to give the Boy Scouts until the end of its current partnership agreement, 2016, before implementing cuts because the agreement didn't prohibit discrimination for sexual orientation.

The provision will be added before a new agreement is signed in 2016, Woods said.

- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.