Lockheed Martin is cutting donations to the Boy Scouts of America in protest of its policy banning out gay and lesbian scout leaders, the aerospace and defense giant announced Thursday.
The move comes after “a careful review” of the company’s giving to non-profit organizations, which found that Boy Scouts of America does not align with its commitment to diversity, Lockheed Martin spokesman Gordon Johndroe told BuzzFeed.
“Lockheed Martin is committed to building strong partnerships with non-profit organizations that value diversity and align with our policies,” Johndroe said. “While we applaud the mission of the Boy Scouts and the good things they do in our communities, their policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and religious affiliation conflict with Lockheed Martin policies.”
Ending donations to the organization will send a clear message to the incoming president of the Boy Scouts’ executive board, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, according to Eagle Scout and LGBT equality advocate Zach Wahls, who founded Scouts for Equality. Under President Obama, Gates contributed to the end of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning out gay and lesbian soldiers.
“This is a big deal for two reasons,” Wahls told BuzzFeed. “First, it’s another clear sign of where the country’s business community is on this issue. And second, it’s particularly important given the ascendance of Bob Gates to the Boy Scouts executive board. He is taking over in May of 2014 and as a former secretary of defense, he has a unique relationship with Lockheed Martin. This says the issue is not going away.”
In 2012, United Parcel Service and Intel ended donations to BSA — a victory for Wahls and Scouts for Equality, he said. Together, the two companies donated over a half a million dollars to the organization.
Johndroe would not say how much Lockheed Martin has donated to the Boy Scouts in recent years, or if it might reconsider the decision. Boy Scouts of America could not provide exact donation amounts when asked by BuzzFeed Thursday, but thanked Lockheed Martin for its support in a statement.
“While not a national sponsor, Lockheed Martin has positively impacted America’s youth through its support of Scouting in local communities and we are grateful for that support,” said Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith. “We respect the company’s right to express its own opinion and appreciate its recognition that Scouting is a valuable organization. Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good.”
In July, the Irving, Texas-based Boy Scouts reaffirmed its ban on out gay leaders, but dropped its ban on recruiting gay scouts. When asked for details on this policy change, Smith said, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA,” Smith said.
This policy, specifically, led Lockheed Martin to drop its support.
“We were pleased to see the organization revise its membership policy, but feel the continued ban on gay leadership conflicts with our Corporation’s values,” Johndroe said. “We’re taking a close look at all non-profit organizations we support to ensure they align with our company’s core values.”
CORRECTION: Zach Wahls is an Eagle Scout and identifies as straight. An earlier version of this post said he was an out gay scout.