Corporate America keeps up pressure on Boy Scouts over gay rights

NEW YORK Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:48am EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In hindsight, it appears to have been a Pyrrhic victory.

Christian churches sponsor a large proportion of Boy Scout troops in the United States, and the national leadership long sought to bar gay scouts and troop masters. That effort culminated in a 2000 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Scouts' right to exclude "avowed homosexuals."

The victory proved costly, as some corporate donors cut their funding of the Boy Scouts.

Intel, a longtime backer of local councils, now requires local Scout groups to pledge not to discriminate.

Merck and CVS Caremark stopped giving to the national Boy Scouts organization in recent years.

The pressure has kept up. This year, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc suspended its $25,000-a-year support for a local Illinois council, saying it could not support an organization that continued to discriminate against homosexuals.

The Scouts' decision in May to accept gay youth, but not gay adults, hasn't gone far enough for Merck, CVS and Caterpillar.

"We certainly applaud the BSA's decision to become a more inclusive environment," said Caterpillar spokeswoman Rachel Potts. "However, the Boy Scouts still discriminates against leaders, which conflicts with our policies."

(Edited by Michael Williams)