There’s an important event coming up for the Boy Scouts of America in Texas on May 24 when the national council votes on a proposal to end discrimination.
It’s been a long time coming, and would be a great thing … if in fact, the proposal ended discrimination.
The resolution to be voted on in two weeks time is actually being billed as a compromise and it seeks to eliminate criticism that has been leveled against the Boy Scouts in conjunction with the organization’s current ban on admitting gay teens.
If it passes, gay teens would be welcome to participate as scouts.
But that’s not the end of the story and this resolution is not the end of discrimination. That’s because gay scouts would still be tossed out of the organization when they turn 18. And more significantly, what remains in place under this proposal is the ban on participation of gay and lesbian parents who seek to volunteer as leaders for scouting troops.
Telling a parent that he or she can’t participate in an organization because he or she is gay or in a same sex relationship is not only wrong, it’s illegal in nearly every public sense of the word.
Of course, the Boy Scouts are a private organization and free to exclude whom they wish. But this policy is not just incredibly short sighted. Excluding an entire segment of the population and all they have to offer based on sexual orientation is unwise, to say nothing of wrong and it speaks to an issue that seems largely defined by fear.
This has also become a topic defined by geography and, unfortunately, religion — it’s the coasts (where scouts are primarily secular in nature) vs. middle America (where they are largely under the auspices of churches — most notably the Mormon Church).
And in this battle, we all lose.
It’s not like individual troops haven’t sought to work around the ban. Many, especially on the east and west coasts, have quietly gone about the business of admitting gay teens and same sex parents despite the national policy. By doing so, they risk a great deal in going against the national ban — and could be kicked out of the organization.
But now, many secular councils are speaking out, refusing to let one segment of society dictate the morality of a national organization with a history of inclusion.
We applaud the move of councils like that of Western Los Angeles County which represents more than 14,000 scouts. Earlier this week, that council publicly called for a national policy that would include gay scout leaders as well as gay scouts. According to the president of the council, there are more than 5,000 adult volunteers in the council who “should be judged on the basis of their character, not their sexual preference.”
We heard several people this week say that this shouldn’t be about sexuality. Sexuality has no place in the Boy Scouts.
And we couldn’t agree more. This isn’t about sexuality — it’s about discrimination and bringing it to an end in a storied organization founded on far greater principles than that. The only people making this an issue of sexuality are the ones refusing to be inclusive – not the parents and scouts who simply want the same rights as the families around them.
So the time has come for action. It’s no longer enough to just quietly admit gay families while refusing to speak out against the policy. We invite all troops to work up the courage to stand up to those seeking to keep misguided discriminatory policies in place with this organization. We encourage the scouts to end all discrimination or at the very least, go back to the proposal they put forth in January in which individual councils are left to decide for themselves whether to admit gay youth and parents into their troops.
We are not a small nation and this “one size fits all” resolution doesn’t work in a country as diverse as ours. There are many opinions and firmly held beliefs to consider and its time for the Boy Scouts to stop dictating morality on a national level to the rest of the country.
This is an amazing organization that should get back to its roots by allowing people to be true to themselves. The days of don’t ask don’t tell are mercifully behind us. The U.S. military has gotten past this issue, so why can’t the Boy Scouts?
Time to take the oath.