CLEVELAND -- The United Way of Greater Cleveland Board of Directors unanimously voted to add sexual orientation to its Equal Opportunity and Diversity Policy at its September meeting.
One possible consequence of this action is funding to the Boy Scouts of America, Greater Cleveland Council, could be suspended in the next funding cycle for noncompliance to the new policy.
Currently, the only United Way funded agency not in compliance with the new policy is the Boy Scouts.
"We are not telling the Boy Scouts what to do. We will not ask the Boy Scouts to change. As a private organization they have the right to determine who they serve and who will serve them. We, however, have the right to fund only those organizations that comply with our new policy," said Bill Kitson, United Way of Greater Cleveland president and CEO.
Kitson says the vote was unanimous. He claims many United Way board members who are corporate leaders got questions about Boy Scout funding from workers at their companies that ban gender discrimination.
The Boy Scouts of America, Greater Cleveland Council received $97,251 in United Way funding this year, in addition to donor directed contributions.
That comes to about three percent of the scouting budget.
United Way of Greater Cleveland joins a growing number of United Ways around the country in its decision to add sexual orientation to its diversity policy.
About 50 of 1,200 United Ways have taken similar steps.
"United Way is devoted to the well-being of our entire community. The Board of Directors expressed concern about our diversity and inclusion policy not specifically spelling out inclusion for sexual orientation," said Paul Clark, United Way of Greater Cleveland Board chairman.
The policy reads as follows:
United Way is an equal opportunity employer and believes culturally diverse governance structures and workforces are assets to our organization and our partner agencies. We therefore value and champion equal opportunity to all persons without regard to race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability or sexual orientation. This includes recruiting, training, promotion, compensation, benefits and all other factors involved in the treatment of applicants and employees.
Scout Executive Barry Norris, of the Greater Cleveland Boy Scout Council, called the decision disappointing.
"It's not a policy we have the ability to set at the local level," he said.
He explained that Scouting programs do not screen for or discuss gender or sexual identification.
He claimed the programs put most at risk by the decision serve about 1,600 scouts in Cleveland's inner city.
United Way donors can still earmark gifts specifically for the Boy Scouts that will be directed there.
The decision could have ramifications for the Geauga County United Way. It shares the same 501-c3 status with the Greater Cleveland group and shares many common policies.
Its board will meet next month to discuss this issue.
The Scouts plan to ramp up their fundraising efforts and claim similar steps in other cities have resulted in increased funding from those who support Scouts and the no-gay policy.
The Greater Cleveland United Way has given money to local Boy Scouts for all 99 years of its existence.
That long partnership seems about to end.