BSA to Scouts – Gay OK. BSA to Adult leaders – Gay? No Way! 5/24/13

Eagle Scout Jackie Wagner
The Boy Scouts of America’s National Council voted on Thursday May 23 to change a longstanding policy regarding the sexual orientation of Scout members.  A majority of the Council approved changing the discriminatory policy that banned gay youth from being a part of the organization.  From now on, sexual orientation alone will not be a barrier to membership.  (Well, from now on after the policy goes into effect January 1, 2014.  BSA says they need 7 months to inform their troops.  Why this is so in the age of the Internet, they did not explain)

Not changed was the BSA’s ban on gay scout leaders.  This leaves the BSA in the odd position of telling young men that being gay is no barrier to being a Scout, but they are morally incapable of being a Scout leader should they want to continue after their 18th birthday.  This moral confusion on the part of the BSA has not gone unnoticed in the wider world of Scouting.  It is doubtful that the large corporate and foundation sponsors that have withdrawn financial support from the BSA over it’s discriminatory policies will return after this half-step.

Leaving the ban on adult leaders continues to mark the BSA as a backward, increasingly irrelevant organization.  That’s a shame, as the Scouts could serve as a continuing source of leadership training and youth development, if not for the blatant discrimination they continue to espouse.

I was a Boy Scout in the 1970’s.  I enjoyed my time in the Scouts, from being a younger member of the troop, to the time as a member of the Leadership Corps.  The older Scouts would mentor and supervise the younger Scouts, providing both guidance for the boys, and learning experiences for us older Scouts.  What I don’t recall from that time is the blatant homophobia of recent years.  Since the Supreme Court win in 2000, it seems the old guard of the BSA has driven the Scouts further and further to the right, and deeper into religious fundamentalism.  It’s a sad state of affairs, but I’ve been unable to support anything associated with the Boy Scouts for some time now due to these increasingly unacceptable policies.  I hope this step is the beginning of the Scouts becoming a truly inclusive organization, one that can return to molding the future leaders of this country.  Homophobia has no place in that future, and organizations that espouse it will continue to decline and become increasingly irrelevant.

The BSA should take some cues from the Girl Scouts.  They do not ban members or leaders based on sexual orientation, and continue to be a strong organization for the development of young women.  The Boy Scouts could do the same, but timidly taking half-steps that leave unspoken bigotry in place will not get them there.

The BSA takes the position that I am unfit to be a Scout leader because I am gay.  It is completely possible, however, that a person with a criminal record can be a Scout leader, as long as they are Christian and straight.  People should think long and hard about what that says about the organization, and then decide if they really want their sons to be a member.  Baden-Powell did not, in my opinion, intend “morally straight” to refer simply to sexual orientation.  Few Scouting organizations around the world follow the lead of the BSA in banning gays.  Most of them simply don’t enquire or care about the orientation of members, and most don’t have problems that can’t be handled on an individual basis.  Let’s hope the BSA realizes it can’t be a leader in the 21st century with policies and biases from the past.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s