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Boy Scouts Rethinking Gay Exclusion

scouting

The Boy Scouts is strongly reconsidering its ban on gays.

USA Today (“Boy Scouts may soon welcome gay youths, leaders“):

As early as next week, the Boy Scouts of America may announce it will allow gay Scouts and troop leaders, a spokesman for the group has told USA TODAY.

If this policy shift is approved by the national board meeting next week, it will be a sharp reversal of the Scouts’ decades’ old national policy banning homosexuals.

“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,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement to USA TODAY.

Only seven months ago, the Boy Scouts affirmed its ban on gays after a nearly two-year examination of the issue by a committee of volunteers convened by national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America, known as the BSA. However, local chapters and some members of the national board — corporate CEO Randall Stephenson of AT&T and James Turley of Ernst & Young — called for a reconsideration.

The proposed new policy would leave decisions on membership and leadership up to the BSA’ s 290 local governing councils and 116,000 sponsoring religious and civic groups.

“Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve,” Smith told USA TODAY.

NBC (“Exclusive: Boy Scouts close to ending ban on gay members, leaders“) adds:

The Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation’s largest private youth organizations, is actively considering an end to its decades-long policy of banning gay scouts or scout leaders, according to scouting officials and outsiders familiar with internal discussions.

If adopted by the organization’s board of directors, it would represent a profound change on an issue that has been highly controversial — one that even went to the US Supreme Court. The new policy, now under discussion, would eliminate the ban from the national organization’s rules, leaving local sponsoring organizations free to decide for themselves whether to admit gay scouts.

“The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” according to Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts’ national organization.

Individual sponsors and parents “would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families,” Smith said.

Reuters (“Boy Scouts of America says discussing end to ban on gay members“):

Boy Scouts of America is discussing ending a longstanding ban on gay members and whether to allow local organizations to decide their own policy, a spokesman said on Monday.

The organization has been under attack from gay rights groups and some parents for discriminating against gay members and gay leaders.

“The BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,” spokesman Deron Smith said in an email to Reuters.

“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,” the spokesman said.

That BSA is kicking the decision down to the troop level, rather than simply ending the policy of discrimination outright, is a shame but hardly surprising. While Scouting is slightly behind national sentiment on this issue, the fact of the matter is that anti-gay sentiment—and especially the despicable notion that gays are somehow predators who can’t be trusted with young boys—is still alive and well in major pockets of the country. Allowing the policy to change where there’s less resistance to it, thus creating an example for the rest of the country, is the safest way forward.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    The Times They Are a-Changin’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. mantis says:

    The right is going batshit insane over this right now, pledging to protect their bigoted organization and, if that fails, destroy it.

    Anyway, I’ll believe it when I see it, especially considering the BSA is still actively threatening their member groups to keep them from adopting nondescriminatory policies:

    Cub Scout pack: We’re dropping gay-friendly policy in face of Boy Scouts’ pressure
    January 28, 2013

    A Cub Scout pack in Maryland has decided to jettison its gay-friendly membership guidelines under threat of losing its Boy Scouts of America charter, according to a statement on the pack’s website.

    Pack 442 of Cloverly, Md., had adopted a non-discrimination policy that read: “Pack 442 WILL NOT discriminate against any individual or family based on race, religion, national origin, ability, or sexual orientation.”

    But over the weekend, the pack posted a notice on its website reading: “Due to pressure from the National Capital Area Council of BSA, Pack 442 was forced to remove its Non-Discrimination statement in order to keep our Charter (set to expire Jan 31st). This Non-Discrimination statement, previously posted here, welcomed ALL families.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  3. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I think the troop / pack level decision-making probably is the best route for them to take. Otherwise, you would probably get situations where troops broke off due to the national policy being too liberal/conservative, depending on location.

    Honestly, this probably gets the pressure off of their high-profile funding organizations, as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  4. Mike says:

    So now a kids on his way to becoming an eagle scout moves to a new area with his family and the local council in that area bans homosexuals, so the kid can no longer be a scout. That doesn’t make sense. How is all the government support to the scouts in the form of using buildings (esp at military installations) going to be impacted? Shouldn’t the gov’t not support the BSA in any way if they discriminate?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    2 months ago The national Eagle Scout association calle for donations. In somewhat nicer terms I told them to f-ck off. Then I urged our regional association members to do the same. I’m hearing similar stories from associates in other regions.

    There’s pressure coming from multiple sides, not just in the sphere of public opinion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    and especially the despicable notion that gays are somehow predators who can’t be trusted with young boys—is still alive and well in major pockets of the country.

    Football coaches, youth pastors, rabbis and Catholic priests, on the other hand, that’s a different story entirely.

    Sort of ironic, isn’t it, that all those figures that were Establishment figures of probity, clean living and upright morals, the sort of character Bing Crosby would play, have lately been shown to be contemptible hypocrites, while gays, who were vilified for years, have been the ones pushing for the traditional virtues of military service, marriage, and raising a family.

    In fact, if Bing Crosby were alive today and remaking “Boys Town”, he’d have to play a gay man for the audience to be able to trust him around kids. Catholic priests are simply too suspect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  7. scott says:

    As a past Scout and a parent of one, I say about time. However, this depends on how the Mormons react. They have an huge (some think too huge) influence on the Scouting movement and I’ve heard they’ve threatened to walk before.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  8. anjin-san says:

    @ Rafer Janders

    It’s worth noting that Crosby, for all his squeaky clean image, was apparently a horrible, abusive father – two of his sons committed suicide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  9. legion says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    I think the troop / pack level decision-making probably is the best route for them to take. Otherwise, you would probably get situations where troops broke off due to the national policy being too liberal/conservative, depending on location.

    I actually wouldn’t have a problem with that situation – let the bigots self-identify. Force them to publicly reconcile their pretend morals with their homophobic actions. If they don’t like it, f*ck ‘em.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @legion: I see it kind of like a mainline church diocese – some troops in a given area will be “welcoming and affirming” and others will not, and market forces will dictate which troop(s) are successful in their geographic area. This, of course, assumes that more than one troop can cover a particular geography.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. ernieyeball says:

    When I was in the Boy Scouts in the 1950′s we went to summer camp at Massawepie in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. It was a two week stint. While we were at the main camp we lived in tents with wooden floors and slept on cots. There were modern toilet facilities and showers and meals were served in mess halls.
    It was a big place with 3 main camps and 100′s of Scouts. The real camp outs came for several days during the stay when a troop of 15 or so would follow the marked trails to the forest, dug latrines and retired in our sleeping bags under the stars.
    Unlike the main camps with their developed beaches and boat docks the only swimming that was allowed on these excursions was skinny dipping! All I remember is about a dozen 12 and 13 year old boys and their 2 or 3 adult leaders naked as Jaybirds!
    If any of us Tenderfoots knew any thing about homosexuality at the time it never came out. I’m sure I did not even know what it meant.
    One thing we all learned about quickly as we splashed around in the lake was LEECHES!
    Don’t guess I need to tell you what fun it was to pick the little devils off all parts of our bodies.
    —————
    I guess the alternative Scouts Motto that we all said under our breath will have to go by the wayside.

    On my Honor I will do my best,
    To Help a Girl Scout get undressed!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My old man was a big time scout leader(Silver Beaver, etc.) and my brother was an Eagle Scout (I was the family reprobate). My father would be rolling in his grave if he knew the pastor was more of a threat than…. any one else. That said, one of his best friends was flamingly gay and became a priest because of it (engagement suddenly broke off for no particular reason, suddenly had a calling…) (seriously, he was, Father Jerry was one of the “good priests” who could not reconcile his “gayness” with his faith, but never stopped trying) (and at 14 I had a well developed gaydar). I don’t think my old man ever knew Fr. Jerry was gay, but he knew a good man when he found one.

    I think this is the Boy Scouts catching up with my old man. (and that shouldn’t be hard)

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  13. Argon says:

    You know you’ve come a long way when you’re group is less hated than atheists!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Allowing the policy to change where there’s less resistance to it, thus creating an example for the rest of the country, is the safest way forward.

    This is a good point, but they’d probably be better off with a blanket no-discrimination policy.

    This just leaves them in the unenviable position of having to back the podunk troop that kicks out the gay guy. They’re halfway there. Now they just need to grow the other ball.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  15. Gustopher says:

    Another fine instance where equality is a function of geography. Screw ‘em — the BSA still supports and coddles bigotry, even with this change in policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  16. J-Dub says:

    Boy Scouts allow gays, ironically making the Boy Scouts LESS gay.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  17. Tony W says:

    I too was a scout and a leader for many years — all before this came to a head in the media and the organization’s bigotry and hate became known to me. It was certainly not an issue when I was a boy, nor when I was a leader for my son’s pack & troop.

    As a result I have cut all ties with scouting – especially donations. The whole situation is quite sad for me, because I have many fond memories from those days – both as a youth and as a leader I learned from many very wise and very tough men.

    I guess I look at them a lot like the Republicans – if the Jesusland/Chik-Fil-A crowd can keep them solvent then I suppose they’ll continue on as is. Alternatively, they have the option of moving into the modern age and admitting that they have been wrong. I don’t expect that from the Mormon-dominated scouting movement any more than I expect it from the Republicans.

    The world evolves and some people just cannot keep up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  18. mantis says:

    @J-Dub:

    Boy Scouts allow gays, ironically making the Boy Scouts LESS gay.

    Win.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  19. ptfe says:

    @Argon: Well, at least BSUSA still considers atheists un-Scout-worthy. I guess if you don’t believe in a god of some sort you deserve to start forest fires and get lost in the woods, or something like that. Most of Europe, by contrast, has realized that religion isn’t really relevant to your ability to dig a shithole in the forest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Argon says:

    @ptfe:
    Yep. Those in the Scouting USA HQ aren’t really known for being savvy about analytical metaphysicS (Note that the HQ is now in Texas, FWIW). They really had to contort their rationalizations to accommodate Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Unitarians and Wiccans. Technically they would accept Satanists but not agnostics. Don’t ask me how they work in Scientology…

    My first troop’s scoutmaster asked me if I believed in a ‘higher power’. I told him I believed in an external reality and he let the issue drop. Later I switched to a troop sponsored by Quakers and they didn’t give a shit about my religion or lack of one. Character building was the key in that troop, not imposing religious orthodoxy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  21. Stephen says:

    I hope the Boy Scouts maintain their policies against homosexuals in the scouts. The scouts have always maintained policies against immorality and deviant lifestyles. Hope they keep up their high standards.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. James Young says:

    Isn’t it funny how sexual deviancy has become just soooooo protected in such a short time? I wonder what other TERRIBLY fashionable views will be foisted upon us next? Now it’s the BSA which is under attack because, as I understand it, deviant parents should be allowed to participate. Why? Because it’s FAIR, and excluding them is DISCRIMINATION! Please, cry me a river. ‘Fact is, the very fact that these deviants HAVE children demonstrates, except in very limited circumstances, that their sexual deviancy is a CHOICE. And it is perfectly acceptable to discriminate against deviant behavior, whether it be sexual, other behaviors, or simply gratuitous flatulence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0