Boy Scouts May Drop Ban On Gay Members, Scout Leaders

The Boy Scouts Of America are reportedly considering dropping a long standing rule and allowing individual Boy Scout to decide whether to admit people regardless of sexual orientation:

The Boy Scouts of America will consider dropping its longtime opposition to allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the organization after it received a petition signed by 275,000 people at its national annual meeting.

The petition, initiated on the advocacy website Change.org, was delivered last week to the service organization by Zach Wahls, a 20-year-old Iowa Eagle Scout whose video in support of his two gay mothers went viral last year.

The Boy Scouts will consider a new policy for 2013 that would allow local charter organizations to decide for themselves whether to accept gay members and leaders.

Spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement that, “Contrary to media reports, the Boy Scouts of America has no plans to change its membership policy. The introduction of a resolution does not indicate the organization is ‘reviewing’ a policy or signal a change in direction.”

He said that this is not the first such petition to amend the ban on openly gay membership and was “unrelated” to the meeting that the organization had with Wahls. The Scouts met Wahls out “of courtesy and respect for differing viewpoints,” according to the statement.

The proposal will go into a subcommittee, which will make a recommendation to the national executive board, a process that will be complete likely by May 2013, Wahls said.

Wahls is optimistic the measure will pass. “One, is the fact that they were even willing to consider it — this is a really big development,” he said. “It has also happened at a time when we have this level of online mobilization … that allows real change.”

As a private organization, the Boy Scouts are free to make their own decisions about membership and who can serve as a leader. Indeed, the Supreme Court affirmed that right in a case decided twelve years ago. However, this is another one of those situations where having a right to do something does not mean that one should do it. This would be a welcome change.

 

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Eric says:

    Wow, I was not expecting that. I really thought Boy Scouts of America was not going to even consider it as they are known to stick to their policies. Kudos to them.

  2. mantis says:

    The spokesman certainly seems to be tamping down any expectations that this will actually happen.

  3. legion says:

    As a private organization, the Boy Scouts are free to make their own decisions about membership and who can serve as a leader.

    Indeed they are. But such decisions also have consequences – and an important one of those (for the Scouts, at least) is being potentially ineligible to be associated with governmental agencies, etc. or receive government funding because of that discrimination. As an old Eagle Scout, I am pleasantly surprised by this… as Mantis notes, it may be some time before this has an actual real-world impact (especially since it’s left to individual troops to decide), but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

  4. mattb says:

    @legion:

    As an old Eagle Scout, I am pleasantly surprised by this… as Mantis notes, it may be some time before this has an actual real-world impact (especially since it’s left to individual troops to decide), but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

    As a rapidly getting old Eagle Scout, let me second your cautious optimism.

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    As a still relatively young eagle scout 🙂 I third the cautious optimism. Unfortunately it will still be left to the individual troops. As much as I loved and still love my old scout leader, he was and is a homophobe. This means that in a very small town such as my hometown, potentially wonderful boy scout who are also gay have nowhere to go to learn the many great qualities scouting instills.

  6. Scott says:

    As a former Scout and Scout Leader, this will be a welcome change. Let me say this, the Boy Scout organization has extensive training and policies concerning adult behavior,including a strict two adult rule i.e. no adult is allowed to be alone with a Scout; two adults must be present at all times when a scout is involved. Seems to me this is exactly right whether the adults are gay or straight.

  7. John Peabody says:

    The traditional policy had the consequence of many troops being kicked out of public schools as meeting locations. Many troops moved into churches. I have to wonder if individual councils and troops may change policies only to be forced out of churches, and now find the schools unavailable.

    As with everything, the ramifications are numerous.

  8. John D'Geek says:

    Yet another Old Eagle here.

    It might go as far as allowing the individual units the choice, but it will never go so far as to mandate acceptance. Troops are overwhelmingly supported by churches; the Mormon Church is the single largest supporter of the Boy Scouts. The chances of Mormons allowing openly gay scoutmasters? Zero. Many other churches will do the same.

    In both cases, they would drop the BSA immediately, destroying the organization almost overnight.

  9. Scott says:

    @John D’Geek: The Mormon Church has an enormous influence over the Boy Scouts. When I got back into Scouting as an adult leader, I was surprised to find out that there were parallel Mormon troops separate from the rest of the troops. Also that the Mormon Scoutmasters were picked by the Church. This bugged me at first but then I remembered that Boy Scouts have a wide range of management structures world wide that reflect national differences.

  10. Racehorse says:

    Around here, all of the scout troops meet at and are sponsored by churches. If the BSA changes their policy, all of these churches in this area and virtually the whole state will end this partnership, with very few (1-2%) exceptions.

  11. SpySmasher says:

    The gays have been trying to destroy the Boy Scouts for many years. If this passes, they will have been successful. What parent in their right mind would send their boy to be molested by one of these perverts in the name of “equality”?

  12. An Interested Party says:

    The gays have been trying to destroy the Boy Scouts for many years. If this passes, they will have been successful. What parent in their right mind would send their boy to be molested by one of these perverts in the name of “equality”?

    That’s rather amusing, considering that most child molesters are heterosexual married men…

  13. Mikey says:

    @SpySmasher: Ah, the certainty of ignorance.

  14. mattb says:

    So we had, what, four Eagle Scouts and one leader discussing the problems of the policy.

    And then when have SpySmasher repeating the usual gay rhetoric. Just out of curiousity SS, were you in the Scouts as a teen, and how long did you stay in? Or have you been a volunteer with the Scouts?

    Because if you’re not or never been, please don’t Concern Troll and pretend you know anything about an organization you’ve never given blood, sweat, and time to.

    @Scott & @John D’Geek: The Mormon issue is a really difficult one. They have a disproportionate level of control over the Scouts and have had for decades.

    As far as who sponsors Troops, at least where I was from (the greater NY metro area), many of the Troops were sponsored by local service groups like Kwanis and Lions Clubs. The Troops, as with AA/ALANON, just met in Churches because the rent was cheap. That was the 80’s and 90’s so that may have changed.

  15. Jeremy says:

    As a fellow Eagle Scout, I support this. I think it sets the right balance between acceptance and not imposing that on certain groups (who will bitch and moan and destroy the organization if they were forced to accept. Make them tolerate yes; force them to embrace no.)

  16. mattb says:

    @Jeremy:

    I think it sets the right balance between acceptance and not imposing that on certain groups (who will bitch and moan and destroy the organization if they were forced to accept. Make them tolerate yes; force them to embrace no.)

    Generally speaking, I totally agree with what you are saying.

    My bigger issue are the people who grumble and moan about this who have no relation to the Scouts beyond concern trolling about teh gayz. And buying popcorn, pizzas, and christmas trees once a year from the Scouts isn’t the same as having been or currently being involved.

  17. Scout Family says:

    We are pleased that BSA has consistently chosen to stay true to its foundational beliefs, missions, and purposes throughout its 100+ year history. If there are factions of people who disagree with it, it would be best for them to form their own organization in which they can teach the values they want, rather than attempt to force a well-established organization to bend to the desires of a few at the expense of the majority of the population and its membership.