The Boy Scouts of America have a resolution on membership policy that will be voted on in May. This opens Scouting to gay youth, but leaves the adult rules unchanged. The adult rules do not allow “individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.” In other words, stay in the closet if you want to be a Scout leader.
So what happens when a gay Scout turns 18? Before then, they were moral enough to be a Scout, but now, an instant later, they are not. Before, they were accepted, but now, they are out. Bizarrely, they can be in and out at the same time, because they can be a youth Venturer until age 21 while forbidden to be an over-18 adult leader in Cub or Boy Scouts.
Bullying and suicide are a critical problem for our LGBT youth. The “It gets better” campaign has been a rallying point for encouraging youth to believe that there will be more acceptance as they grow up. You will be more accepted–it gets better. But this BSA proposal comes down solidly on the other side. It is OK to be gay as long as you are young, but once you turn 18, you might as well sell that uniform on eBay. We don’t want you. Though if you can squeeze back into that closet, we’ll take you.
Instead of “it gets better”, the BSA would say “it gets worse”. Gay youth are OK, but adults are out.
This cannot be justified on youth protection grounds. The BSA’s YP advisory committee is quoted in the executive summary saying, “The nearly universal opinion among sexual abuse authorities is that same-sex sexual interest or same-sex sexual experience, either in adults or youth, is NOT a risk factor for sexually abusing children.” The all-caps “NOT” is in the original.
One thing is very clear, the BSA is not bowing to donors. With this proposal, the BSA continues to exclude gays and continues to be unacceptable to most large donors.
Outside of the moral issues, this policy could be a disaster for our council. The continuing discrimination against gay adults offends nearly all parents in our area and is unacceptable to sponsoring organizations.
I know of one Palo Alto troop that is on the verge of losing their charter organization because of the current policy. That decision is on hold waiting for a change in BSA policy. Our district office is in space leased from the city. Will they renew that lease? Tough call for the city, really.
Our local newspaper covered the district fireside chat on membership. Every single person at that meeting was in favor of opening membership to gays. The newspaper tried hard to find someone opposed (they even contacted me), but couldn’t. You can read the article “Local Boy Scouts want change in sexual-orientation policy”.
In February, a well-respected poll found that 78% of age 18-39 Californians were in favor of gay marriage. Not just gay rights, but gay marriage. These are the people who would be Scout parents, but they won’t be, because they won’t put their sons in an organization which is solidly in conflict with their family values.
Earlier, there was a leak about a proposed policy that opened membership at the national level, but allowed charter organizations to choose their membership. After some thought, I decided that was a good approach. For a very long time, the BSA has allowed “closed units”, which only accept members from the charter organization. This might be a Catholic church, or maybe a home for developmentally-disabled adults registered as youth. Though I disagree with discrimination against gays, that approach would have allowed each organization to follow their own definition of “morally straight” while allowing all Scouts at Philmont or a Jamboree.
This proposal? It is logically inconsistent, solves almost nothing, and adds one more burden to the LGBT youth of our country.