Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Boy Scouts Take Baby Steps for Gay Youth



But Still Dance Around Gay Leaders 

On May 23rd, the Boy Scout Council of America, headquartered in Texas, approved a half-measure that would allow openly gay Scouts into the organization for the first time, effective January 1.  The historic decision was approved by 60% of approximately 1,400 volunteer leaders from across the United States.

The proposal approved last Thursday was seen as a compromise, and the Scouts stressed that they would not condone sexual conduct by any Scout- gay or straight.  A BSA statement said “The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue.”

What Happens to the Older Scout?

Sounds progressive until you realize that an eighteen year-old gay Eagle Scout who is prepped for leadership and has earned the highest award can not become a Troop Leader because he is gay.  How do you tell a Boy Scout who has been groomed for success earning badges through cooperative efforts with his troop as well as self-reliance, that he is no longer accepted by an organization that should be inclusive of everyone, including troop leaders?

If a Scout is brought up to be a friend to all, to be kind, to never turn his back on those in need of support and help, then why can’t these qualities that make better citizens, leaders, and neighbors translate into gay adults serving as leaders?

The Times They Are A’Changin’

There are over thirteen states that permit same-sex marriage now, reflecting a shift in acceptance of GLBT persons.  Why can’t the Boy Scouts keep in step with the changing times?

Even the biggest sponsors of scouting, the faith-based organizations, are more open-minded.   The single largest sponsor of Scout troops, the Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) stated that the welcoming change of gay scouts won’t affect its support for Scouting.

President Obama and United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have released statements expressing disappointment in the National Council’s decision to exclude gay leaders. .  Regardless of sexual orientation, the President believes that leadership positions in the Scouts should be open to all.

Old Fears and Stereotypes Still Prevail

Gay adult leaders will not put Scouts at greater risk.  This is a stereotype that has perpetuated.  According to the American Psychological Association, “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men.” 

However, as far back as 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts could legally bar homosexuals from being troop leaders. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released May 9 found that 56% believe openly gay adults should be allowed to serve as Scout leaders.

Why can’t the Boy Scouts be more like the Girl Scouts whose policy has always been one of diversity and inclusiveness?