NEW YORK, NY — Merck & Company, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world and a corporate donor of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), has announced the company will cease future funding to the Boy Scouts until gay youth and leaders are welcome within the organization.

Merck’s decision comes after Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls successfully petitioned Intel and UPS, two large corporate donors of the Boy Scouts, to discontinue funding organizations that discriminate. More than 60,000 people have joined Wahls’ newest campaign on Change.org urging Verizon Communications Inc. to stop funding the Boy Scouts of America until the organization removes its ban on gay youth and leaders.

“I am thrilled that Merck & Company — a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical giant — has announced its foundation arm is immediately withdrawing funding from the Boy Scouts of America until the program ends its anti-gay membership policy,” said Eagle Scout and Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls. “Now it’s Verizon’s turn to join the growing list of political and corporate leaders urging the Boy Scouts of America to end this policy before more young people are harmed.”

Merck & Company spokesperson Kelley Dougherty issued the following statement, confirming that the Boy Scouts will no longer be allowed to receive grants from The Merck Company Foundation as long as the anti-gay policy remains intact.

“Merck Foundation has suspended all funding to the Boys Scouts of America (BSA). The Merck Foundation will consider funding the BSA again when the organization's inclusion criteria has been expanded.

The BSA's policy of exclusion based on sexual orientation directly conflicts with the Merck Foundation’s giving guidelines. The Foundation re-evaluated funding for the BSA when the organization restated its policy that excludes members on the basis of sexual orientation. Merck Foundation has notified the BSA of this decision.

As part of the broader review of funding decisions in 2013, the Foundation is currently assessing all current and future funding commitments to ensure that it is not funding organizations with policies contrary to its own.”

In June of this year, Merck & Company chairman and CEO Kenneth C. Frazier, who participated in Scouting in his youth, received the “Good Scout” Award by Philadelphia’s Cradle of Liberty Boy Scout Council. The Merck Company Foundation had donated $10,000 to Cradle of Liberty Council in March of 2012 and had given $30,000 to Boy Scout entities in 2011, according to the contributions listed on the foundation’s website.

Merck joins Intel and UPS, two large corporate donors of the Boy Scouts, in refusing to fund organizations that discriminate — including the Boy Scouts. Intel and UPS made their announcements following successful Change.org campaigns launched by Eagle Scout Zach Wahls. Other corporations, including Pfizer, are listed as sponsors of the Boy Scouts of America, but have yet to address their corporate giving to the BSA. GLAAD and Scouts for Equality are continuing to reach out to these companies to urge them to stand against the BSA's policy barring gay youth and leaders.

“Those of us here at Scouts for Equality have not made the decision to petition corporate sponsors lightly. It pains us to see the BSA losing corporate support, but we remain convinced that the short term harm of reduced funding is a much smaller price to pay than the long term harm of maintaining the policy,” added Wahls.

Wahls, an Eagle Scout and son of two gay moms whose speech in support of marriage equality was YouTube's most watched political video in 2011, launched Scouts for Equality after delivering nearly 300,000 Change.org petition signatures to the Boy Scouts of America on behalf of Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mom and den leader from Ohio who was removed from her 7-year-old’s Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Together, Wahls and Tyrrell — in conjunction with California Scout Ryan Andresen and Kentucky Scoutmaster Greg Bourke — have led Change.org petition campaigns attracting more than one million signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

GLAAD, which broke the story of gay mom Jennifer Tyrrell’s removal from her son’s Cub Scout pack in Ohio months ago, joined Wahls and Scouts for Equality in celebrating Merck’s decision to cease all future funding from the Boy Scouts while their anti-gay policy remains intact.

"These companies are helping to bring change to the Boy Scouts of America by speaking out against the discriminatory policy and in support of the young people who are harmed by it," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "The Boy Scouts of America should take the health of their organization into account and focus on making scouting open to all, rather than working to keep an outdated and unpopular ban in place."

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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