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.