Friday, July 27, 2012

The Badge of Inequality

To: Bob Mazuca, Chief Scout Executive and BSA National Executive Board
From:  Robert Paxton, Eagle Scout, Senior Patrol Leader in Troop 409, Wausau, WI
            Brotherhood Member in Order of the Arrow
Dated:  July 23, 2012
“Today, I’m returning my Eagle Scout as it has become a badge of shame. Until the day comes that the Boy Scouts of America fully act out their instruction to be “morally straight” – and to welcome all boys – I can only recommend that the boys go elsewhere for those powerful formative experiences. “

Other Protests Against BSA Policy of Banning Homosexual Leaders & Scouts
Not only are gays protesting the Boy Scouts of America’s policy announced two weeks ago, but straight former Eagle Scout Martin Cizmar of Portland, returned his Eagle Scout badge to the BSA National Council after it expelled nineteen year-old Eagle Scout Eric Jones, who admitted he was gay, from his camp counselor job. Organizations such as the Armed Forces’ Out Service, and Legal Defense Network (SLDN) are urging Boy Scouts to abandon their policy.

Human Rights Campaign Chad Griffin said “The Boys Scouts of America, with 2.7 million youth members, has missed a great opportunity of colossal proportions. These adults could have taught the value of respect, yet they’ve chosen to teach division and intolerance.”(http://"Boyscouts are Out of Step,", 25 Jul 2012).

Lesbian Mother and Tiger Scout Den Leader Ousted from BSA

Jennifer Tyrell, lesbian mother of four from Bridgeport, Ohio was fired from her position as Den Leader of her son Colin’s Tiger Scout troop. Both were devastated. Gathering signatures for reinstatement, she is trying to petition the Boy Scout Headquarters in Dallas, Texas.

Girl Scouts Don’t Discriminate

Girl Scouts of America’s Position Statement: We recognize the basic human rights of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendering individuals. All citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, have the rights to housing, employment and to be free from violence and harassment. 

This means that if Jennifer Tyrell had been a Girl Scout Leader, her leadership would have remained. I know as co-leader of Honor Troop #2220 in a New York City suburb that it is hard to find parents, whether working or just over-scheduled, to volunteer as Troop heads. When someone good wants to lead, grab her and reward, not punish her, for giving your children character.

In Step with Modern Society: “Semper Paratus” Unlike the Boy Scouts

During our tenure as Scout Leaders, from elementary school grades 1 to 5, we not only built “box ovens,” camped, and filled Christmas goody bags for the local nursing home, we dealt with some heavy issues.  Parents of two scouts went to jail for drug possession and embezzlement. One scout’s mother died prematurely.

What Scouting Can Provide

The Troop disbanded due to pubescent interests, but two of my scouts soldiered on in another troop to win their Gold Awards. We, their former leaders, bursting with pride, were at the ceremony with the County Legislator and others. I saw early on that one scout was an academic whiz. She earned a scholarship to Dartmouth College. The other Gold Award recipient had the gumption in grade school to ask local resident Hillary Clinton to buy Girl Scout cookies, earning her a spot on a Morning Talk Show.

My co-leader and I hosted a barbecue before our former Girl Scout Troop went off to college.  We were in the company of fine, accomplished women. While their parents can rightfully take much credit for their development, I like to think that scouting in their formative years contributed to building them as moral accountable citizens.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

“The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant”

Hallelujah! The same church that elected the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson nine years ago, has, on July 10th, voted in support of a new church ceremony which will be used for the blessing of same-sex unions. This same-sex blessing is called “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” and is intended for monogamous couples.

Under a decision at the church’s national 77th General Convention in Indianapolis, this provisional rite allows each Episcopal bishop to decide whether his local priests can bestow the same-sex blessings. Couples will not have to live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal to receive the blessing. However, this is not the same as the Sacrament of Marriage, which requires the additional involvement of civil authorities, although it contains a special prayer and exchange of rings and vows.

Membership Down in Episcopal Church Since Robinson’s Election

Most Anglican churches have embraced gay members, but this Church has been divided about gay clergy and same-sex marriage since the rift caused by Robinson’s election. The Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism, has about 1.9 million members, down from 2.3 million in 2003. Most of the differences within the Church have been geographical, with the majority of the Anglican churches in Africa and West Indies holding fast to the notion that homosexuality is a sin documented in the bible.

How Does This Measure Differ From Marriage?

The Episcopal Church as a whole does not endorse same-sex marriage. In order to have their union blessed in the Episcopal Church, committed same-sex couples will have to complete counselling. The proposed blessing will be introduced in early December and be evaluated over the next three years when the next General Convention, the governing body of the Episcopal Church, meets.

Transgenders Included As Clergy and Members

The visionary Episcopalians, after the Convention, have now included anti-discrimination language for transgender members of the church who will be allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable and the Human Rights Campaign applauded the church for its efforts. (http://LGBT National "Episcopal Church approves new rites for same-sex unions, transgender-inclusive policies").
Hopefully, other denominations will follow this righteous path and welcome all, regardless of their sexual orientation, to the altar to bestow God’s Grace on them.

Friday, July 6, 2012

“Not With a Bang, but a Whimper”

Out of Town and The Closet

“ The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” So writes CNN anchor Anderson Cooper to his friend Andrew Sullivan, editor of “The Daily Beast” (http://The Daily Beast, 07/02/12 Anderson Cooper: "The Fact Is, I'm Gay.") last Monday. Cooper was asked by gay blogger Sullivan about the trend of casual “I’m gay” statements by public figures. 

Printed with Anderson’s permission, the pronouncement to Sullivan met with understated  reactions from Anderson’s followers, signaling the growing acceptance of gays in mainstream society as reflected on television.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Compare this to Ellen DeGeneres’s announcement fifteen years ago on television that she was gay. It sent shock waves on the Richter scale of ten throughout American television sets. Viewers buzzed about her orientation for months and her revelation made the cover of Time magazine on April 14, 1997 with the title “Yep, I’m gay.” Today, with her own television daytime show, Ellen is popular; her lesbianism has not been a handicap at all.

“The Most Prominent Openly Gay Journalist on American Television.” – New York Times

However, up until last Monday, Gloria Vanderbilt’s son Anderson did not want to be known as “the gay anchor.”  He is in fact the sixth cable news anchor who is openly gay. Out to his friends and colleagues, he wanted to keep his life private so he kept his orientation out of the limelight. “A journalist shouldn’t be the story,” he said. 

Cooper, a descendant of the railroad scion Vanderbilt family, has, as an anchorman with his own show “ Anderson Cooper 360,” achieved almost rock star fame for his reporting in war zones (many which abhor homosexuality) over the last decade. He also hosts a daytime talk show called “Anderson” and contributes to “60 Minutes

Why the Epiphany Last Monday?

Did people already know because of his association with Benjamin Maisani, a gay bar owner?  Did his fans read into all his extensive accounts of gay bullying and discrimination segments covered extensively on his television shows? Was his playing on celebrity “Jeopardy:  for the charity “Trevor Project,” a suicide hotline for gays and lesbians,” a dead giveaway?”

I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy.”  Anderson Cooper

Apparently, Anderson stated in his e-mail that he didn’t want others to think he was “hiding” his sexuality as if it were something to be ashamed of. Although he didn’t disclose who was “reminding him,” Cooper remarked that prominent gay people suggested that he “stand up and be counted” and make himself a role model for other gay people.

Cynics Believe Cooper Has Ulterior Motives

Some, like Star Jones, wonder if Anderson’s announcement was a ploy for rating.  Says Jones,
“I’ve been in daytime television for a long time. He’s a daytime talk show host and when the ratings slip in daytime, the hosts tend to tell you lots of things about them. I remember Oprah said she smoked crack. Oprah said she was pregnant at age 14 and considered suicide.  There were times that you generate information for ratings. Cooper won’t be the first or the last celebrity to use personal struggle as a connection point with their audiences. "

Ignacio Fuentes, a Chicago lesbian member of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, commented that Anderson should not have said anything. “ I am one who agrees that Anderson is turning back the gay movement. He should not have said anything. People know he is gay and it was great that Anderson didn’t make an issue out of it. By coming out now, his motives are very suspect.”

What Do You Think? Post a Comment Here
Should Anderson have kept quiet? Should a person’s sexual orientation be made public anyway? Was Anderson’s revelation inspirational or a public relations stunt? Does it matter?