Archive for the ‘LGBT’ Category

University of Texas professor behind controversial study wades further into gay-marriage debate

Posted on: April 10th, 2013 by Sofia Resnick 4 Comments

Gay-marriage friends and foes gather in front of U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in the U.S. v. Windsor, surrounding the Defense of Marriage Act, March 27, 2013 (THE AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick).

“You are a researcher, not an advocate. You are simply reporting on what the data tells us.”

This is the first in a long list of media-training guidelines drafted for sociologist Mark Regnerus in preparation for last year’s release of his findings of the infamous “New Family Structures Study,” a flawed, politically motivated study that suggests that children of gay parents experience more unfavorable outcomes compared to children of heterosexual, married parents.

The guidelines instructed the University of Texas at Austin associate sociology professor to focus on the science of his study and to emphasize his apolitical views. Regnerus echoed many of these talking points when his study was first released, taking pains to maintain a neutral front on the gay-marriage debate. He stated in his papers and in interviews that the study was not about gay marriage or even about gay parenting. Regnerus continues to try to appear neutral on these issues in media interviews, recently telling The New York Times’ Bill Keller that, concerning gay marriage, his study “paints the reality of people’s lives as fairly complicated.”

But Regnerus’ more recent actions indicate many of his talking points were simply that: talking points.

Since those early days, Regnerus has signed on to a “friend of the court” brief in both gay-marriage cases recently taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the court to uphold California’s ban on same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. He has blogged about his skepticism regarding the health of kids raised by gay parents, and he’s signed on to speak at a National Organization for Marriage-affiliated conference dedicated to arming college-age kids with research that opposes gay marriage.

‘Points to Avoid’

As The American Independent reported last month, the Witherspoon Institute, the conservative think tank that funded the bulk of the New Family Structures Study, pushed to have the study’s results out before “major decisions of the Supreme Court,” according to documents obtained through a public records request.

Among those documents – which are still being released in chunks – is a document titled “Mark Regnerus Media Training” (attached below) which encouraged the professor to focus on the fact that his study was a large, random, nationally representative study, unlike the majority of the existing research on gay parenting. He was told to avoid politics.

The origin of this training document, which is undated, is unknown. David Ochsner, director of public affairs at the University of Texas’ College of Liberal Arts, said he did not believe the guidelines were issued by UT, and he said Regnerus told him he could not remember where they came from. Witherspoon Institute President Luis Tellez said they were not issued by the Witherspoon Institute.

Regnerus’ “key points to make” included:

  • This study does not ascribe a cause to the effects, it simply reports the data.
  • For many years, gay advocates have claimed that there are no meaningful differences between children of same-sex couples and other children. This study shows this not to be true.
  • Young adults raised in a same-sex household are [list key findings such as more likely to have considered suicide, etc.].

The training document also listed “points to avoid/hard questions.” Regnerus was encouraged, for example, to avoid stating his opinion of President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage.

But if asked about his own opinion on gay marriage, he was instructed to say:

This study is not about same-sex marriage. It does not attempt to assess the differences between those gay couples who have married and those who have not. It is focused on the differences between young adults raised in a same-sex household and those raised in an [sic] intact families.

Were he to be asked about whether gay couples should be able to adopt children, Regnerus was instructed to say:

Again, I am a researcher, not an advocate. Our research finds that there are a number of significant differences between young adults raised in a same-sex household and those raised in intact families where their parents are married to each to her. I have no position on adoption, gay marriage or any other similar issue.

Were he to be asked about the Witherspoon Institute’s politics, Regnerus was told to point out that liberal organizations fund academic studies, and he was instructed to emphasize that “Witherspoon had nothing to do with the study design, or with the data analyses, or interpretations, or the publication of the study,” an oft-repeated statement that has been called into question, given that a Witherspoon fellow was heavily involved in many aspects of the study and – including recommending a journal to publish it in – while also working on the study as a paid consultant employed by the University of Texas.

Some of the same language in these crafted answers appeared in the Q&A with himself that Regnerus posted on his blog in June 2012.

Regnerus adhered to some of these guidelines in early interviews.

“I don’t have a political axe to grind,” he said in an interview last summer with UT’s student newspaper The Daily Texan. “I know the funders are conservative. I don’t know what they make of this. … My views have never been a part of this process or affect how I go about analyzing things.”

Aligning with gay-marriage foes

But more and more, Regnerus has waded further into the gay-marriage debate.

Perhaps most tellingly, he joined the slew of activists trying to influence Supreme Court justices with his research, by signing on to a little-noticed  “friend of the court” brief filed in both cases before the court, Hollingsworth v. Perry – challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 – and United States v. Windsor – challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act

The brief, signed by seven social-science professors in support of the legal teams defending Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, argued that “compelling evidence shows that children benefit from the unique parenting contributions of both men and women” and attacked the American Psychological Association’s position that there is “no difference” in outcomes of children raised by same-sex parents versus heterosexual parents, saying that claim is based on studies that are methodically flawed.

Arguing that “there is no dispute that a biological mother and father provide, on average, an effective and proven environment for raising children,” the brief’s authors concluded that, “The State of California and the federal government thus have a rational interest in supporting that proven parenting structure by reserving the title and status of marriage to unions comprised of a man and a woman.”

Among the many scholarly articles referenced in this brief are both articles Regnerus wrote on the New Family Structures Study for Social Science Research and another article he co-wrote related to the influence of parent-child relationships on teens’ virginity status, published in the Journal of Family Issues in 2006.

The brief addressed the major criticisms hurled at the New Family Structures Study, among them that the study wrongly compared intact heterosexual families to families that experienced breakups and transitions but were classified as same-sex households because a child had reported that at some point his or her parent had experienced a same-sex romantic relationship. The brief’s authors challenged this criticism by suggesting that same-sex relationships are by their nature unstable.

“[T]he fact that most of the same-sex households were at some point unstable raises the question of whether stable same-sex households were genuinely undercounted in the study, or whether same-sex relationships were more short-lived,” the brief’s authors wrote. “The last scenario is possible, if not probable, given other research on the comparative volatility of lesbian relationships.”

Along with Regnerus, the brief was signed by Simon Fraser University economics professor Douglas W. Allen, Penn State University associate sociology professor David J. Eggebeen, Brigham Young University family life professor Alan J. Hawkins, Baylor University social-sciences professor Byron R. Johnson, Ava Maria University assistant economics professor Catherine Pakuluk, and Brigham Young University assistant economics professor Joseph Price.

The sociologists’ brief was directly challenged in an amicus brief filed in late February by the American Sociological Association, Regnerus’ professional organization. In that brief, authors argued that Regnerus’ data did not support his paper’s conclusions and addressed the brief’s attacks on studies that have found no differences among outcomes of children raised by straight parents versus children raised by gay parents.

Just a few days before the Supreme Court heard arguments in the same-sex-marriage cases, Regnerus blogged about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent endorsement of gay marriage, writing that the few population-based studies on gay parenting – presumably including his own – “seem to foster skepticism about moving quickly or universally to deny children their right to a mom and a dad.”

“The science on same-sex parenting remains comparatively new, unable to keep up with political and legal developments,” he wrote. “But those few population-based studies that exist — that map what’s going on across the country — seem to foster skepticism about moving quickly or universally to deny children their right to a mom and a dad. It’s not a popular position, of course. In the end, we all want children to thrive. Many organizations and scholars assert that same-sex marriage is a step toward that end, ensuring household stability. Others remain skeptical, and wonder whether this isn’t more about parents’ wishes than those of children.”

Additionally, Regnerus is listed as one of the featured speakers at the summer’s It Takes a Family to Raise a Village conference in San Diego, sponsored by the Ruth Institute. Former George Mason University economics professor Jennifer Roback Morse founded the Ruth Institute in 2008 and was a prominent supporter of California’s gay marriage ban. Her group, which became affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage in 2009, has frequently been called out by LGBT-rights groups and bloggers for promoting anti-gay rhetoric and so-called “ex-gay” therapy.

Carlos Maza, a researcher at Equality Matters, an LGBT-focused initiative of Media Matters for America, attended last year’s It Takes a Family conference undercover and caught on tape speakers referencing Regnerus’ study to support attacks on gay people raising children. Jenet Jacob Erickson, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life, was recorded citing the study in support of the claim that same-sex relationships are “dysfunctional and erratic and not stable.”

Regnerus did not respond to requests for comment.

The Ruth Institute and the National Organization for Marriage are among the Witherspoon Institute’s many allied organizations – several of which share founders, board members, and resources – that have helped the New Family Structures Study fulfill its purpose: to challenge the increasingly popular belief among the mainstream social science community that kids raised by gay parents turn out fine. At least from the Witherspoon Institute’s perspective, the study’s ultimate purpose was to provide the court with evidence that banning gay marriage is in the public’s interest, based on the reasoning that heterosexual family structures are superior.

Already, the study has had this effect, at least for one justice on the Supreme Court.

Arguing before the court in defense of California’s gay-marriage ban, attorney Charles Cooper appeared to be struggling to come up with reasons why gay marriage harms or denigrates “traditional opposite-sex marriage couples.” Justice Antonin Scalia, known for his politically conservative views, interjected – bringing up kids, and sociology.

“Mr. Cooper, let me — let me give you one — one concrete thing,” Scalia said. “I don’t know why you don’t mention some concrete things. If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s -­ there’s considerable disagreement among — among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a — in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some States do not — do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason. … I don’t think we know the answer to that. Do you know the answer to that, whether it – whether it harms or helps the child?”

“No, Your Honor. And there’s – there’s –” Cooper responded.

“But that’s a possible deleterious effect, isn’t it?” Scalia said. He later added, “I take no position on whether it’s harmful or not, but it is certainly true that — that there’s no scientific answer to that question at this point in time.”

Cooper did not directly answer the question, but he agreed with Scalia’s point – and argued that the plaintiffs have to prove that gay marriage will cause no harm to straight married couples. Not only that, but he said plaintiffs have to prove that “that it’s beyond debate that there will be no harm.”

On the same day the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Proposition 8 case, gay-marriage foes gathered at the National Mall for a rally organized by the National Organization of Marriage. Organizers passed out brochures titled “What You Need to Know about Marriage: Questions & Answers Driving the Debate.” In addition to NOM, the brochure’s listed sponsors included the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, and the Heritage Foundation, all social conservative groups based in Washington, D.C.

The first “consequence[] of redefining marriage” listed in the brochure is that, “Redefining marriage would hurt children. Decades of social science – including very recent and robust studies – show that children do better when raised by a married mom and dad.”

The endnotes cited Regnerus’ New Family Structures Study findings to support this claim.

Got tips? Email them to Sofia[at]

Mark Regnerus Media Training

Maryland lawmaker cranks HIV-decriminalization gears with message bill

Posted on: March 26th, 2013 by Sofia Resnick 1 Comment

*This article has been updated to reflect a correction.

A Maryland lawmaker and a handful of local advocates have started the course to repeal the state’s HIV-specific criminal law, and if other states’ efforts are any indication, Maryland’s path will likely be a long and winding one. (more…)

Mich. HIV data collection violates intent of statute, says lawmaker who helped create law

Posted on: March 19th, 2013 by Todd Heywood 2 Comments

LANSING, MICH. – Michigan’s health department is violating the legislative intent of an HIV-related statute – and maybe the law itself – by indefinitely collecting information on people who test for HIV at federally funded clinics, says a former state lawmaker, who helped pass sweeping health reforms in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. (more…)

Goal of UT parenting study was to influence SCOTUS decisions on gay marriage, docs show

Posted on: March 11th, 2013 by Sofia Resnick 4 Comments

UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect a correction.

The conservative funders who bankrolled a flawed and widely cited academic study that’s critical of gay parenting* choreographed its release in time to influence “major decisions of the Supreme Court,” documents show. (more…)

One in seven Fortune 500 companies gave to the Boy Scouts

Posted on: March 4th, 2013 by Andy Birkey 2 Comments

Among the corporations that make up the current Fortune 500 — Fortune magazine’s yearly list of the top 500 American companies ranked by revenue — about one in seven, or 14 percent, each donated at least $10,000 to the Boy Scouts of America in 2010, despite the organization’s longtime ban of gays and lesbians.

Many of those donors, like Comcast and Kraft Foods Group, have policies that are supposed to prohibit funding organizations that discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Together, 69 companies donated nearly $5.3 million to the Boy Scouts that year.

The list of Boy Scout donors includes household names such as Campbell’s Soup, Macy’s, Morgan Stanley, and Sprint.

Public scrutiny over the Boy Scouts’ discrimination against gays and lesbians and its much-publicized proposal to revisit the gay ban has led some of the Boy Scouts’ corporate donors to take sides in the matter. Corporations like KeyBank and Intel have decided to pull funding from the Scouts, while companies like ketchup-maker H.J. Heinz Ketchup have said they will continue supporting the Scouts.

No atheists, agnostics, or homosexuals allowed

Last July, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it was reaffirming its policy of excluding “open and avowed homosexuals” from serving as Boy Scouts and troop leaders. Significant public outcry and organizing followed, and earlier this year, the Scouts’ executive board promised to revisit its national anti-gay policy at the BSA’s national board meeting in early February.

However, BSA officials have been clear that even if the organization removes the national policy restricting membership based on sexual orientation, that would not apply directly to chartered organizations or local units, meaning individual troops could still bar gays and lesbians from membership or employment.

Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement last month.

But after significant pressure from social conservative groups, the BSA’s board did not revisit the policy this month, instead pushing a decision to the Scouts’ general membership meeting in May.

Adding to the uproar, this month the Human Rights Campaign recently uncovered a BSA job application professing employment discrimination against “known or avowed homosexuals,” as well as atheists and agnostics:

Accordingly, in the exercise of its constitutional right to bring the values of Scouting to its youth members, the Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals, or others as professional Scouters or in other capacities in which such employment would tend to interfere with its mission of reinforcing the values of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law in young people.

The application noted that felony convictions are “not an automatic bar to employment.”

The American Independent searched the Fortune 500 corporate foundations’ tax filings for 2010, the most recent year these tax statements were available for all of the companies. That search turned up 69 major corporations that each donated at least $10,000 to the Boy Scouts despite its ban on gays.

The 46 highlighted in this story is in addition to the 23 corporations TAI identified last September. A minority of the Fortune 500 companies did not have charitable foundations and therefore did not have publicly available tax forms.

All told, 69 corporations donated $5.3 million to the Boy Scouts of America and its subdivisions in 2010, including the BSA’s national headquarters, regional councils, and local troops.

That funding could cause corporations to have downgraded ratings from the nation’s largest LGBT lobby, the Human Rights Campaign.

Earlier this month, HRC announced that corporations that have donated to the BSA would lose points on the group’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates corporations on LGBT-inclusiveness.

“To receive a perfect score, companies would have to prohibit philanthropic giving to non-religious organizations that have a written policy of anti-gay discrimination, or permit its chapters, affiliates, or troops to do so,” reads a press statement HRC released last month.

In that statement, HRC President Chad Griffin argued that the BSA’s proposed policy reversal would not lead to the “full inclusion” of gay Scouts and troop leaders.

“While it is good news that the onerous national ban will come to an end, it’s not acceptable to abdicate nondiscrimination standards to local units,” Griffin said. “It’s akin to a national restaurant chain saying that it will not discriminate at its corporate headquarters, but allow local restaurants to discriminate at will.”

Taking sides

Already one corporation is trying to conform with HRC’s new policy.

KeyBank Foundation, a charitable foundation funded by KeyCorp, under which KeyBank is a subsidiary, gave the Scouts about $44,000 in 2010, including $25,000 to the Boy Scouts’ National Council. However, the corporation and its foundation have been revamping all of its charitable giving to bring it in line with HRC’s expectations.

“We are reviewing our grant-making policies in light of the Boy Scouts’ policies,” said KeyBankspokeswoman Lynne Woodman in a phone interview. “It’s undergoing a rigorous review.”

Woodman said KeyBank has consistently scored 100 percent on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, something the company takes pride in.

“We are equally strong about public support to our community and diversity and inclusion,” Woodman said. “We want to ensure that we are fully inclusive in word and deed.”

KeyBank joins Intel, the United Parcel Service, and Merck in adjusting corporate policy to ensure funds don’t go to organizations that discriminate based on sexual orientation — organizations like the Boy Scouts of America.

Other corporations are standing in support of the Boy Scouts, however.

Publix Super Markets, a chain of grocery stores in the southeast, gave about $339,000 to the Boy Scouts in 2010.

Publix told TAI that it has no plans to change its policy.

“Publix Charities has not made any changes to the funding of the Boy Scouts,” said Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous in an email. “We believe in the leadership & life skills Scouting teaches.”

Western & Southern Financial Group gave $30,000 to the Boy Scouts in 2010 and said it would continue that funding in the future.

“Western & Southern Financial Fund has been a long-term supporter of the Boy Scouts over many years,” corporate spokesman José D. Marques said in an email. “As we have done in the past, the Financial Fund plans to continue evaluating all future requests from the Scouts as it does for requests for contributions from any organization.”

Ketchup-maker H.J. Heinz Company gave $12,000 to the Scouts during the fiscal year ending April 27, 2011 — and stands by those donations.

“The H.J. Heinz Company Foundation has had a long-term partnership with the Boy Scouts of America for the past 25 years and that partnership continues today,” Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said in an email.

Non-discrimination policies

Several Fortune 500 companies gave to the Boy Scouts or its subdivisions while maintaining policies that restrict donations to groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Reynolds American Inc. is the parent company of American Spirit cigarette-maker Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which manufactures Camel, Kool, and Winston cigarettes. Reynolds American, gave about $155,000 to Boy Scout entities in 2010, including $153,795 to the BSA’s Old Hickory Council, based in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Reynolds’ grant guidelines say that a potential grantee “must generally be … operated and organized so that it does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, age, or disability, in terms of hiring practices, service provisions or board-member selection.”

Former Boy Scout Matt Comer recently told a Winston-Salem Fox affiliate in late January that when he was 14, he was kicked out of the Old Hickory Council in 2000 for being gay.

ConAgra Foods Inc., which makes a large number of brand-name foods, such as Slim Jim, Peter Pan peanut butter, Wesson cooking oils, and Chef Boyardee, gave about $50,000 to various Boy Scout entities during its fiscal year ending May 30, 2010.

Yet ConAgra has a matching-grant program for its employees, which says gifts are ineligible if they are intended for “organizations that discriminate based on race, color, creed, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, or national origin.”

Textron, Inc., which owns subsidiaries that make military equipment such as the AH-1 Cobra helicopter, Cessna airplanes, and the E-Z- GO brand of golf carts, also has a nondiscrimination policy regarding corporate donations.

Textron’s grant corporate giving guidelines state that, “Contributions will not be made to … [o]rganizations that discriminate by race, creed, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, age or any other basis prohibited by law.”

Textron gave nearly $39,000 to the Scouts, including $5,000 to the BSA’s headquarters in Irving, Texas.

Internet, cable, and television provider Comcast also has a policy that bars funding for groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation. The frequently asked questions section of the Comcast Foundation website states that Comcast will not fund “organizations that practice discrimination by race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation or national origin.”

Comcast’s charitable foundation donated about $41,000 to the Boy Scouts in 2010 and listed the Boy Scouts as a beneficiary in 2011 on the foundation’s website.

Darden Restaurants, which owns the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains, gave $15,000 to the Boy Scouts for the fiscal year ending May 30, 2010.

Darden has a policy that states: “All applicants must not discriminate in their membership or provisional services on the basis of race, religion, creed, national origin, disability, handicap, age, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status or any other basis prohibited by law.”

Kraft Foods, which along with its own brand of products also makes Oscar Mayer, Velveeta, and Jell-O, gave almost $16,000 through its Dollars for Doers program.

The Kraft Foods Foundation’s matching-gifts guidelines include an affirmation from employees that the program they are donating to does not discriminate.

It states:

I certify that, to the best of my knowledge, this organization does not advocate or support policies, or practice activities that discriminate on the basis of an individual’s race, religion, color, age, sex, disability, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship status, protected veteran status or status in any group protected by state or local law.

Kraft’s employee volunteering program, Dollars for Doers, has similar guidelines:

Non-eligible organizations also include those that advocate or support policies, or practice activities that discriminate on the basis of an individual’s race, color, age, sex, disability, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship status, protected veteran status or status in any group protected by state or local law.

Kraft spokeswoman Niya Moon said in an email, It’s possible that a donation was made by a local office or our foundation matched a personal contribution from an employee through our matching gifts program.”

Moon declined to comment further except to say that Kraft’s donations were small amounts to local Scouts organizations through the company’s employee donation program.

BSA donors, by industry

Many of the Boys Scouts’ corporate donors in 2010 hailed from the financial services industry.

Aon, a reinsurance broker, gave about $84,000 in 2010, including $40,000 to the BSA’s Greater New York Councils, which openly opposed the policy barring gays from serving in the past.

Though the GNYC has a policy that states it opposes “any form of unlawful discrimination,” it’s unclear whether the GNYC allows openly gay Scouts and leaders.

Pacific Lifea life-insurance company based in Newport Beach, Calif., gave $50,000 to the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts in 2010.

According to the Pacific Life Foundation, the foundation has already given to the Scouts in 2013.

Mutual of Omaha, an insurance and financial services company in Omaha, Neb., gave $50,000 to the Boy Scouts, including $40,000 to the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Mutual of Omaha also gave $10,000 to the Scouts in 2012, according to the company’s year-end report.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation gave about $22,000 to the Scouts in 2010.

“Boy Scouts of America is outside the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation’s main granting guidelines, so the issue is really not a matter of direct impact to us,” said Thrivent Financial spokeswoman Callie Briese in an email. “Thrivent Financial is proud of employees’ and members’ generosity and involvement in communities they care about.”

Thrivent donates frequently to Lutheran churches and community groups. Additionally, members can make donor-advised contributions through the foundation.

Morgan Stanley gave $14,000 to the Boy Scouts in 2010.

The company provided TAI a statement that said, “The Morgan Stanley Foundation provides support to several local Boy Scout chapters where Morgan Stanley employees have volunteered a significant amount of time and applied for a grant, and also where the chapters have signed an affirmation of nondiscrimination which includes sexual orientation.”

Lincoln Financial Group gave about $18,000 in 2010, which was its last direct donation to the Scouts, according to a representative for the company.

The foundation does continue to donate to the Scouts through an employee volunteer program and an employee-matching program.

Companies involved in the heavy industry sector gave a considerable amount to the Scouts.

Oshkosh Corporation gave $10,000 between Oct 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010, but that donation appears to be Oshkosh’s last.

If I remember, that was a contribution locally, not the national office,” said Oshkosh corporate spokesman John Daggett in an email. “They haven’t approached us since 2010.”

Macy’s gave just over $80,000 to the Boy Scouts during its fiscal year ending Jan. 29, 2011. About $75,000 of that went to the Dan Beard Council, based in Evendale, Ohio.

“Our policy excludes self styled practicing homosexuality” within the Boy Scouts,” said Dan Beard Council Scout Executive Tom Dugger in an interview with ABC affiliate WCPO in Cincinnati, Ohio, after the national organization reaffirmed the ban on gay Scouts. “Youngsters should be given a chance to be youngsters in an environment that is safe.”

The Winn-Dixie chain of supermarket chains in the southeast gave $49,000 to the Boy Scouts. Winn-Dixie also donations to the Scouts in 2011.

Donations to councils that do not discriminate

Some corporate giving went to Boy Scout chapters that do not exclude gays and lesbians.

Best Buy gave to the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts, based in St. Paul, Minn., which has publicly stated it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Best Buy gave $10,000 to the council during its fiscal year ending Feb. 26, 2011.

Xcel Energy did not have tax documents publicly available for 2010, but did for 2009 and 2011. In 2009, Xcel gave $57,500 to the Scouts — $25,000 was to the Northern Star Council in Minnesota, which has told the media that it allows gays to serve. In 2011, Xcel gave $82,500 to the Scouts, including $35,000 to the Northern Star.

The Xcel Energy Foundation provided a statement to TAI, which said the company mainly gives to Boy Scout entities that do not discriminate: “The Xcel Energy Foundation has a long history of supporting programs that meet community needs throughout our eight-state service territory, including grants to the Boy Scouts of America. This covers several chapters including the North Star Council, which does not prohibit gay scoutmasters.”

Xcel said it is waiting to see how the Boy Scouts will vote in May on whether to scrap the policy banning gays and lesbians.

“Our scheduled funding cycle for 2013 will not happen until after the May annual meeting of the national Boy Scouts, where it is our understanding there will be a vote to change their policy. If we receive a grant application from the Scouts, we will review their policy then.”

Zach Wahls of Scouts for Equality, who was shown some of TAI’s research, praised those companies that did not give to Scouting organizations that discriminate.

“It’s clear that the vast majority of Corporate America agrees that the best future for Scouting includes every boy who wishes to live its law and abide its oath,” Wahls told TAI. “The Scouters we represent all look forward to the restoration of corporate support when the BSA adopts a full non-discrimination policy and ends their ban on gay youth and parents.”

Zach Wahls of Scouts for Equality, who was shown some of TAI’s research, praised those companies that did not give to Scouting organizations that discriminate.

“It’s clear that the vast majority of Corporate America agrees that the best future for Scouting includes every boy who wishes to live its law and abide its oath,” Wahls told TAI. “The Scouters we represent all look forward to the restoration of corporate support when the BSA adopts a full non-discrimination policy and ends their ban on gay youth and parents.”

Here’s a full list of corporations who donated to the Boy Scouts in 2010:

Sequester could lead to massive cuts in HIV testing, treatment

Posted on: February 25th, 2013 by Todd Heywood 3 Comments

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program is among the many federal programs that will take a hit if $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts go through March 1, and those cuts could potentially lead to an increase in HIV transmission, the White House said Sunday in a report on the anticipated state-by-state impacts of the so-called sequester. (more…)

UT releases docs related to controversial parenting study

Posted on: February 1st, 2013 by Sofia Resnick 1 Comment

The University of Texas at Austin has begun releasing university records surrounding UT sociology professor Mark Regnerus’ controversial “New Family Structures Study,” following the Texas Office of the Attorney General’s recent ruling in favor of an American Independent records request. (more…)

Lawmakers seek to bar discrimination against LGBT jurors

Posted on: January 28th, 2013 by Andy Birkey 1 Comment

Lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate recently introduced bills banning discrimination against prospective jurors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Last year, an American Independent investigation revealed numerous instances of likely discrimination against LGBT jurors in both state and federal courts.

Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) introduced the Juror Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 on Jan. 18.

“Serving on a jury is one of America’s most cherished civic duties,” Davis said in a statement announcing the bill. “It is unjust to exclude a particular group of people from participating in civil society because of whom they love or what they look like.”

Davis’ bill has picked up 14 co-sponsors in the House.

This legislation would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the other characteristics – “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status” — that cannot be used to dismiss a person from a jury panel.

In the Senate last week, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced a similar bill, which has the bipartisan support of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

According to a press release from Shaheen’s office, the proposed legislation has garnered the support of most major LGBT groups, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“We simply can’t tolerate discrimination against a potential juror because of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Shaheen said in a statement. “Our country is founded on the principles of inclusion, acceptance, and equality. The jury selection process in federal courts should reflect those principles.”

“Jury service is an important public service,” Sen. Collins added in the statement from Shaheen’s office. “Our bill would prohibit potential jurors from being dismissed for service in federal trials based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Last year, legislation was offered in both the Senate and the House following The American Independent’s reporting. That story revealed cases where jurors in federal and state courts were dismissed because, for example, the juror had an “alternative lifestyle” or appeared to be “a man dressed as a woman.”

Such discrimination is legal in most state-level courts and at the federal level. Currently California and Oregon have laws barring a juror’s dismissal based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently one state, Minnesota, has legislation pending that would bar such discrimination based on sexual orientation.

California’s law was tested last May, when a San Diego judge ruled that prosecutors illegally dismissed at least one juror based sexual orientation in a criminal case against several marriage equality activists. San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber called the discrimination in the case “shocking.”