Today, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council voted to allow openly gay Boy Scouts in their program—but openly gay adult leaders are still banned. The decision, supported by more than 60 percent of the council, is a step in the right direction, but still sends the wrong message about gay adults.
The new policy states,
No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone … [but BSA] will maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders.
While some parents will undoubtedly pull their boys out of the Scouts because of personal objections to homosexuality, the new ruling will certainly bring in gay boys who have been patiently wanting to join, as well as the sons of parents who have kept their children out of the Boy Scouts because they did not support the discriminatory BSA ban.
Some conservative churches that sponsor troops have made it clear that they did not want the ban on openly gay youths lifted, and have threatened to pull their support. Other sponsors have warned they would pull financial support if the ban was lifted, which could lead to BSA losing a significant amount of their funding. But again, new sources of funding may step forward because of the inclusion of gay Scouts.
There are currently more than 100,000 scouting units in the United States and about 70 percent of them are organized under religious institutions. Some more liberal religious institutions have shown their support for the lifting of the ban.
Many have argued that this was a missed opportunity by the BSA to fully update its policy and remove all anti-gay discrimination. Richard Ferraro, vice president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination, told The New York Times,
What this resolution appears to be doing is reinforcing the outrageous idea that gay people somehow pose a threat to kids, which experts like the American Psychological Association have dismissed for more than a decade.
While we’re happy that openly gay boys can now be Scouts, until the Boy Scouts of America lifts its ban on all openly gay individuals, Ms. is holding its applause.
Support full non-discrimination in Boy Scouts for America by taking action through Scouts for Equality.
Photo of Boy Scouts of America stamp (illustrated by Norman Rockwell) under Wikimedia Commons.