The Boy Scouts of America has long been an outstanding opponent of gay scouts and leaders, even stating on their website that they refuse membership to “open or avowed homosexuals.”
But as LGBTQ acceptance grows in this country, even the Boy Scouts are now reconsidering that stance—somewhat.
The organization announced it’s considering lifting its ban on homosexuals, but only for scouts under the age of 18. A ban on gay adults will continue.
The BSA will vote on this proposal May 20, at a meeting of their 1,400-member national council.
The organization has come under fire in recent years for its anti-homosexual policies, and this latest proposal looks like an attempt to keep both progressives and conservatives happy—but so far, it seems to have failed on both fronts.
Ohio mom, Jennifer Tyrrell, was terminated as leader of her son's Cub Scouts pack last year because she's gay. In her recent public statement she said, “One year after sending a letter ousting me as my son's leader, the Boy Scouts are once again forcing me to look my children in the eyes and tell them that they still think our family isn't good enough,” she said.
“My heart goes out to the young adults in scouting who would be able to continue as scouts if this is passed, but then be thrown out when they have a family of their own, and want to become leaders.”
Conservatives appear equally as unenthusiastic about the measure. Tony Perkins, president of the ultra-conservative Family Research Council said in his own public statement, “This resolution would introduce open homosexuality into the ranks and eventually the leadership of scouting,” he said. “This is totally unacceptable to the vast majority of scouting parents who want to keep their exclusive right to discuss issues of sexuality with their sons.”
And not everyone disagrees with him. The BSA estimates that if it also lifted the ban on gay adults, it could lose as many as 350,000 members.
The idea for a “half-ban” came about earlier this year when the Executive Committee conducted a survey that included approximately 1 million members, who for the most part agreed that “gay youth shouldn’t be denied the benefits of scouting.”
Some of the BSA's willingness to include gay youth may also be the rationale that gay scout members will remain discreet about their sexuality: “The proposed resolution also reinforces that scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of scouting age is contrary to the virtues of scouting.”
The organization’s slow-crawl towards social change may be due in part to the fact that some of its biggest sponsors include the Roman Catholic church, as well as the Southern Baptist Convention.
But even among those religious supporters, not all are in favor of banning homosexuals. The United Methodist Church, for example, remains in favor of the scouts lifting its sexuality-based ban. Jim Winkler, an executive of the General Board of Church and Society, said in a previous statement, “United Methodists affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth.”
In the meantime, even if the proposed “half-ban” is voted in as policy this May, that still means that people like Jennifer Tyrrell, or banned Eagle Scout candidate Ryan Andresen remain shamed out of the organization—not because their conduct is subpar, but because their sexuality is for some, reason enough to discriminate against them.
Should religious freedom allow organizations the legal power to discriminate against a group of people? Or should discrimination remain intolerable no matter the reason? Let us know in the Comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com