Boy Scouts Drop Ban On Gay Adults


On Monday, July 27, the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America ratified a resolution that removes the ban on gay adults serving as Scout leaders or employees of BSA.  The vote was 79% in favor of the change, which still allows local chartering organizations to impose restrictions on adult volunteers, according to their religious beliefs.

This will have the curious effect of some Scout Troops being led by people who happen to be gay, and others where they will be forbidden from volunteering.  Some troops will have gay Scouts move up in the organization, some even becoming Eagle Scouts, but then be told they are no longer welcome to serve as adults.  These distinctions will be at the whim of the chartering organization, the majority of which are religious in nature.

Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary of the United States, serves as National President of the BSA.  In May, at their national annual meeting, he told the attendees that the ban then effect was having a tremendously negative impact on Scouting.  Between changing laws, discrimination lawsuits, the halting of major contributions by national corporations, the swiftly changing social acceptance of the LGBT community, and declining memberships, Gates told the BSA they must change their discriminatory policies.  Earlier in July, the National Executive Committee voted to recommend the changes, and today’s vote ratified that action.

Many who have been urging the BSA to drop the bans against LGBT adult volunteers see today’s vote as merely a half-step.  Until the entire Scouting organization is free from discrimination based on sexual orientation, they will continue to support the removal of those bans.  Such bans, in their eyes, continue to teach the wrong values to Scouts.  Barring an adult who happens to be gay from serving as a Scoutmaster or other volunteer tells young Scouts that discrimination against others is an acceptable adult practice.

Zach Walls, an Eagle Scout and the son of a lesbian couple, is Executive Director of Scouts for Equality, a group of current and former Scouts advocating for an end to the ban on gay Scout leaders and members, said  “While we still have some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults, we couldn’t be more excited about the future of Scouting.  We look forward to collaborating with our supporters, progressive faith partners, allied non-profit organizations, and the Boy Scouts of America to ensure a fully inclusive Scouting movement.

Many troops in Tulare County are sponsored by conservative churches, including the LDS church (Mormon).  Since the BSA vote still allows them to discriminate against volunteers who are gay or lesbian, it’s not clear if today’s action will result in any local changes at the troop level.

Chickens and goats and the city, Oh my.


I’m a bit surprised.  For several years now I’ve been blogging regularly about LGBT equality and related issues.  I’ve always been prepared for pushback, and ill-informed and bigoted commentary directed at me for those posts.  I live in Visalia, after all, and a profile blurb I wrote says, in part, “A liberal gay atheist living in the heart of central California’s Bible belt, surrounded by oranges, walnuts, dairies and Republicans.”  The responses to most of those blogs pales, however, when compared to the fury unleashed when I dared to comment that I thought goats and chickens should not be raised inside city limits.  As bad as anti-gay zealots get, they’re not too far ahead of the pygmy goat and chicken crowd!

Here’s what I said:  “Tulare County is 4,800 square miles. Visalia is 32. Pick a spot in the county to raise your goats and chickens, and leave those of us who don’t want farm animals over our back fence in peace!”  Well, you’d have thought I had suggested killing kittens, from the responses that followed.

Gingi said, “You advocate controlling what others may do on their private property? Should we also create kid-free zones (some don’t like kids) or Christian free zones or dog free zones…? When an animal abides by all pre-existing noise, trespass, health and all other ordinances… why the bigotry against this particular animal???”

Guido said, “You got the money to move us all to land that’s american …otherwise were stuck in the bush obama neverland without a paddle free eggs are more important than your feelings sorry buddy“, and “Your property rights dont trump others just because paid for politicians have brainswashed and incorporated this whole country dosnt mean your neagbors will cave …keep it up and your gas car will be banned in the city lol you want a gas car pay up and drive in the designated roads lol …..they came for the chicken owners ..I was not a chicken owner so I did not speak up”

Gingi invited me to the Farmers Market, to “meet” some goats.  I replied, “Gingi, I don’t need to see the goats, I know they’re cute as cute can be, but I still don’t want farm animals across my back fence in the city. Goat and chicken lovers need to respect the rights of their neighbors to be free from farm animals, and raise their little menageries out in the country, where they belong. 4800 square miles vs 32. You have plenty of options that don’t include my back fence.”

Then things got a bit… well, rude.

Michelle chimed in with “I‘m going to move next door to you Jim and I’m going to have 4 dogs in my backyard and I’m going to let them bark all day long just for you.”  

Susan chimed in with “Jim get your facts straight“. (“Straight”? Really?  I would have preferred “Jim, get the facts”, but oh well)

Gingi returns with “I think the person craving complete isolation from society (dogs barking, kids shrieking, sirens wailing, music, people, animals,etc. etc.) is the one with the burden of where to live. No amount of self-righteous busybodying gives you the right to tell your neighbors how to live or what to eat. 4800 square miles of isolation or 32 of community living. You pick

Where this idea of “complete isolation from society” came from I don’t know, but certainly not from anything I wrote. But, then again, we’ve long ago left rationality and logic behind.

Jessica has finally reached her limits with the discussion, and says “the whole basis of your argument is flawed. If you want quiet you should be in favor of banning dogs. If you want odor control you should be in favor of banning dogs and cats. Etc. you clearly want is the ability to dictate what your neighbors do. Which sorry to tell you, you can’t. If you are so concerned about the actions of neighbors somehow bothering you I’m curious to why you chose to live in a communal setting such as a city. Seems you’d be better suited for the 4800 square miles you seem so crazy about. Then again I’m not sure why I’m wasting my time typing to someone who I can’t help picturing as the noisy, busy body neighbor Gladys from Bewitched. “Abner! Abner! The neighbors are being self sufficient and behaving in ways a can’t control!“”

Of course, I hadn’t said anything about cats, dogs, odor or noise, but that’s irrelevant, right?

Katie has a calm statement, and a point, “I don’t think anyone is trying to control anyone else. So far, people are expressing opinions I personally don’t consider 2 hens to be farm animals.  It’s sort of an empty argument when you live down in the valley with a half million dairy cows that can be smelled from 10 miles away.”  (You’d think Tulare County would be wealthier, with the ever-increasing “smell of money” permeating our air.)

Gingi, again, “LOL, I like how he’s ignoring my valid questions / arguments so he can indulge in the cyber version of sitting on the porch and shaking a stick at the “darn kids“.”

Guido went and checked my Facebook profile, and was shocked, shocked, I tell you… “Omg look at his profile what a hipocrite …you cant expect rights of you attack others buddy”

Jessica thought Guido scored big time with his comment, “After Gingi’s comment I swear I could hear her dropping the mic. And I definitely could hear myself shouting “Burn!”

Gingi mistakes my having to leave the conversation to go to work for, “LOL, Jim is running out of arguments. Look, everyone is entitled to an opinion buddy. You have yours and thats great. But please stop pretending you have a leg to stand on as far as rational arguments go. Minis aren’t loud. They don’t stink. They don’t effect property value. They would not hurt or harm you in any way. You are simply bigoted against mini goats, we got that. You think your personal preferences for pets outweigh my rights as a property owner and my rights as a parent feeding her children. Just say, “I don’t like goats.” and move on, no need to keep making a fool of yourself. For someone who crusades for LGBT rights, you are crazy intolerant of people and lifestyles different than your own, despite the overwhelming evidence that the “other” is not as scary or different as it seems, aren’t ya?

My LGBT activism somehow means I have to stand with the “underdog” (undergoat?), no matter the cause.  As if legal equality and sanctioned repression were somehow equivalent to where you can raise goats and chickens.  Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. The only way there would be a valid comparison is if some people in the city were allowed to have goats and chickens, and others were not, and the distinction between who could and who could not was simply based on some arbitrary history, such as “those people have always been allowed to raise goats and chickens! It’s the natural order of animal husbandry!” When your goat/chicken regulations are based on such distinctions, we’ll revisit the idea of what constitutes “intolerance” and “bigotry”.

Pygmy goats. Hens. What’s next?  (yes, I know…  “slippery slope”. But if the anti-gay crowd gets to indulge in such nonsense, then so do I)  After all, miniature horses and pigs have their ardent supporters, too.  Why should they be excluded?  We might not eat or milk the horse, but the pigs have to worry about becoming bacon, so they qualify under the “food freedom” banner.  Anyone interested in a llama? Maybe an emu.  I wonder if they taste like chicken?

As I said in my comment, Tulare County is 4800 square miles.  Visalia is 32.  The “country land is too expensive” claim is a ruse, as there are plenty of rural areas where home and land prices are depressed, compared to other places in California.  City lots are not cheaper than country lots, and farm animals should be out on a farm.  A ten by ten enclosure for a goat is not exactly the good life for an animal, and that’s all the proposed ballot initiative calls for.  The chickens do even worse, although comparatively they get a better deal than the goats.

I don’t have anything against goats and chickens.  They are farm animals, however, and should not be confined to a back yard, nor should people who choose to live in the city be subjected to having them across their back or side fences.

If you dare to speak out against the idea, be ready for the invective that will be directed your way.  I’m lucky, in a way.  My LGBT activism and advocacy braced me for the response, even if it was a bit unexpected. After all…  chickens and goats. Oh my.

“Religious Liberty”



On several occasions, I’ve been branded “intolerant” of religious liberty while advocating for LGBT equality.  I’m told I have to “respect” the views of religious people (read: Christian) who don’t accept homosexuality.  (as if it’s up to them to decide)  I’ve also been chastised for daring to speak to religious, especially Christian, topics, because I’m an atheist.  Well, guess what?  I’m going to do it again!

In the wider world of “religious liberty” (I’m going to use quotes around that phrase just like the crusaders against equality like to write “gay marriage”), we’re told we must respect the religious views of county clerk’s office employees, and circuit court judges, who refuse to carry out secular government functions (issuing marriage licenses and conducting civil marriage ceremonies for lesbian and gay couples) because they say it’s “against” their religion.  We in the LGBTQ community are regularly accused of being “intolerant” of “religious liberty”, as we demand tolerance for ourselves (and expect the equal execution of government functions).

That tolerance, apparently, is a one-way street.

The above picture is of the Metropolitan Community Church of Our Redeemer, in Augusta, Georgia.  Today the church discovered it’s facilities vandalized by someone not happy with the open and affirming theology they practice.  As of this writing, the vandals are unknown, but since they accuse the church of lying, and spray-painted Leviticus 18:22 (Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. KJV) it’s probably safe to conclude some Christian fundamentalist is not happy with the MCCOR.

I’ve long thought it odd that Christians who demand the right to both practice and preach their theology, as is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, often try to censure or silence other Christians whose beliefs differ.  Even when using the same Bible, worshiping the same “god”, and agreeing on most of their religious tenets, they’ll harshly, and sometimes violently, condemn others.  Churches who are open and affirming towards the LGBTQ community have the same rights as any other church, but you wouldn’t think so, watching other Christians react to their “religious liberty”.  Hence, today’s vandalism in Augusta.

There’s a whole slew of other “don’t you dare!” rules in the Bible that are often ignored.  As I read the reports, I wondered if the vandals had any tattoos. (Leviticus 19:28) Have any tattoo parlors in Augusta been tagged?

Do the vandals enjoy a nice bacon and egg breakfast before church?  (Leviticus 11:7-8) Any christian soldiers protesting at Denny’s?  Or a shrimp dinner at the local diner?  (Leviticus 11:9-12)  Is Red Lobster safe?

I wonder if their clothing was only of one type of cloth?  (Leviticus 19:19)

Why does the one about men who “lie with mankind” carry so much weight with these imbeciles?

Maybe this?

Whatever the reason, it seems that even while some Christians demand tolerance of their “religious liberty”, they are unwilling to grant the same to others, even when those others are worshiping the same “god”.  They call us intolerant for demanding government employees carry out the secular duties of their jobs, and turn right around and deny that tolerance to other Christians.

Christians, get your own houses in order before you start demanding ours reflect your ideas of “tolerance”.

Image: Twitter and Facebook

More fun with flags – Missouri county in “mourning” over SCOTUS ruling


Missouri’s Dent County Commissioners, Darrell Skiles (R), Dennis Purcell (R), and Gary Larson (R), have voted, unanimously, to lower the flag of the United States of America to “below half staff” on the 26th day of each month through June 2016.  They are taking this action to, as reports,

“to observe one year of “mourning” over the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision that gay couples have the constitutional right to marriage.
The vote came after Presiding Commissioner Darrell Skiles filed a letter into the public record protesting, “the U.S. high court’s stamp of approval of what God speaks of as an abomination.”
The letter details Skiles’ opposition to gay marriage and proposes lowering of the flags so “all who see these flags at this lowered position be reminded of this despicable Supreme Court travesty,” he wrote.

The commissioners, who are the equivalent of our County Board of Supervisors, took the vote on Monday, July 13, 2015.  Reaction was swift.

Someone has already “updated” the County’s Wikipedia page:

Dent County is a county located in the U.S. state of Missouri.
As of July 13, 2015, Dent County is known as the most bigoted, homophobic, hillbilly county in Missouri. Any tourists looking to do a float trip should patronize an outfitter in one of the surrounding counties, which have nicer floating streams anyway. As of the 2010 census, the population was 15,657.[1] The largest city and county seat is Salem.[2] The county was officially organized on February 10, 1851 by Dustin Counts & Nicholas Berardy, and is named after state representative Lewis Dent, a pioneer settler who arrived in Missouri from Virginia in 1835.

Articles are appearing in media around the country, as Dent County becomes a poster boy for how not to conduct government business.  These commissioners missed the whole “separation of church and state” memo, and would rather insult the LGBT members of their communities (up to 1,500 voters in a county of 15,600).  I suspect they don’t care, and probably take some pleasure from the idea.  Since they don’t seem to have a Confederate Battle Flag flying to advertise themselves with, they’ll simply ignore the Flag Code, and make a political statement with Old Glory.

I wonder if the County Attorney will step in and explain it to them?  I suspect he (or she) already did, and, since the Code does not have the force of law, they just don’t care.  After all, to “good” Christians like these, “God’s” law trumps the Constitutions they swore an oath to uphold.  Pesky things like that can just be ignored, when you’re doing “God’s” work, right?

UPDATE:  On Tuesday, Commissioners told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they intend to rescind their vote out of “respect” for military personnel and veterans.  (no respect was forthcoming towards the LGBT community.)

Image: Dent County Courthouse by Bob Weston 

A couple of personal milestones


Two personal milestones for me in the past few weeks.  On June 20, I was presented the “Heart of a Lion” award by the Visalia Pride Lions, at a banquet to celebrate their 5th anniversary.  Visalia Pride Lions (here’s their Facebook page) is the second Pride Lions Chapter in the United States, and recently sponsored a Fresno Pride Lions Chapter.  They managed to keep the nomination and voting secret, and I had no idea I was going to be so honored.  I was taken completely by surprise, and I am very thankful to them for the recognition.

Sunday, July 5th, marks my 21st anniversary as an Emergency Dispatcher with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office.  I began my career there in 1994, and it has been a rewarding and enjoyable time.  My favorite saying about my job is that “I get to help people, play on the radio and computer, tell cops where to go (and sometimes how to get there), and they pay me for it! What could be better?”  (well, astronaut, but NASA has shown no interest)  I’ve had the pleasure to work for three sheriffs, Butch Coley (briefly), Bill Wittman, and now for Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.   It’s been an interesting, rewarding, and oft-times challenging job, and I really can’t imagine doing anything else.

You can read more about my 21 years at TCSO on my personal blog, here, and about the Heart of a Lion award at