O.K. To Lift Ban On Gay Scouts, But Not for Its Leaders
Last Friday, the Boy Scouts of America proposed ending its ban, that the Scouts defended before the Supreme Court in 2000, on gay youth while continuing to exclude gay adults from staff or leadership roles. On May 22nd., the 1,400 members at the National Council meeting in Texas will vote on the recommendation.
The BSA came to this conclusion after sending out close to a million surveys earlier this year. Nearly 200,000 recipients responded. The results? Sixty-one percent favored keeping the current policy of excluding gays while thirty-four percent did not agree. However, a majority of teens and younger parents were opposed to the policy. Most agreed that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting.
A Compromise in More Ways Than One
While the BSA’s proposal may seem like a compromise, it is also a compromise in principals, especially for an organization whose mission is “preparing young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetime.” How, pray tell, do you tell a gay scout, at age eighteen, that he can’t be a Scout Master? Even the Conservative’s Family Research Council spokesman Rob Schwarzwalder, concurs. “It makes no sense to have a different policy for youth and adults because men who become Scout leaders usually start out as scouts.”
Even though this country has become more accepting of gays and lesbians, the boy scouts are still fearful of gay leaders, equating them with pedophiles. For its proposal, the BSA recently consulted four experts who remarked that homosexuality is not a risk factor for sexual abuse and that there was no evidence that having a gay leader would alter a child’s sexual orientation. According to gay activist Richard Ferraro, Vice-President of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD), The American Psychological Association, has, for more than a decade, dismissed the idea that gay people pose a threat to kids.
Membership in the Boy Scouts has declined by approximately one-third since 2012. It is estimated that the lifting of the gay ban could cause widespread defections by conservatives and churches, the largest supporters of scouting, and might cost the organization 100,000 to 350,000 members. Corporate sponsors such as Intel have already pulled money out of the organization owing to its gay ban of scouts and their leaders since the 1980s.
While membership is down at The Boy Scouts of America, it’s telling that membership is skyrocketing in all-inclusive troops. For example, membership has doubled in the past year in an alternative group called Navigators USA. Since March 2012, Navigator’s chapters have more than doubled, with up to 600 boys and girls enrolled in the program.
Take a hint, Boy Scouts!