The Boy Scouts of America today announced it will consider dropping it’s current policy which excludes gay boys and men from being members. BSA spokesman Deron Smith told Reuters in an email:
“The BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue.”
This policy, if adopted, would remove the national ban on gay boys and men, and lesbians, from being members of the Scouts. If adopted as presented, however, it would allow local Councils, Troops, and Packs to set their own membership standards, and those local sponsoring organizations could still ban from membership boys, men and women of the LGBT community.
While a “baby step” forward, that still leaves a long way to go for Scouting in the United States.
On July 7, 2012, the BSA announced the results of a two-year “review”, and reaffirmed their policy to refuse membership to anyone who identified as gay. Since that time, BSA has suffered the loss of large corporate donations from sources as diverse as UPS and INTEL. Public petitions numbering in the hundreds of thousands have been presented to the BSA, demanding the end to the discriminatory policy. Eagle Scout Zach Wahls has been a vocal leader in the struggle to get the BSA to change the policy. Ryan Andersen of Moraga, California, who completed all the requirements for an Eagle award but was denied the rank when his Scoutmaster and Council refused to forward the paperwork after he came out publicly, has also been working to end the ban.
After decades of refusing to budge on the issue, now it seems the BSA may join most other public organizations, and remove discrimination from their policies. Public and financial pressure has driven the leaders of the Scouts to realize that they can no longer maintain their revered status in our society if they blatantly maintain that gay boys and men are unfit to be Scouts. The number of Eagle Scouts that have returned their awards, the financial hit of donors bailing on them, and the public ridicule they have endured may have finally broken the back of the (few) powerful people who had stubbornly maintained the ban.
Failing to step completely and bravely into the future, however, the BSA is not going to impose a non-discrimination policy on it’s Councils, Troops, and Packs, but instead will let those local organizations decide for themselves if they will continue to maintain the falsehood that gay=bad. They imposed the ban organization-wide, but won’t lift it across the board. This will result in pockets of discrimination continuing, as local Scouting sponsors, Councils, Troops and Packs will be able to maintain their gay bans. While a positive step forward, this “review” (notice nothing has been promised, other than a “discussion”) does not promise to end the official policy. We’ll have to wait to see how it is implemented, if at all, by the national and local organizations.
There have always been gay kids in the Scouts. I know this to be true, because I was one. I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but it’s still the truth. There are currently gay Scout leaders, most in the closet because of the ban currently in effect, and they serve capably and well. Once the ban is lifted, and it will be eventually even if this “discussion” does not result in that change in the near future, boys can be Boy Scouts, men can be Scoutmasters and women can be Den and Pack Mothers, regardless of their sexual orientation. It will bring the BSA into the 21st century, almost, with some pockets of intransigence still clinging to their old prejudices and hatreds.
The BSA forced local organizations to impose the ban across the board, but they are unwilling to impose non-discrimination across that same board.
Next up, the ban on atheists!