In what would be a sudden about-face, after re-affirming its policy of anti-gay discrimination only seven months ago, the Boy Scouts of America is actively considering ending its ban on gay members and troop leaders as early as next week. It’s also a turnaround from the news of just a few days ago that a Cub Scout pack in Maryland was threatened with excommunication from the Scouts if they didn’t drop their gay-inclusive non-discrimination policy.
The new policy, now under discussion, would eliminate the ban from the national organization’s rules, leaving local sponsoring organizations free to decide for themselves whether to admit gay scouts…
…The discussion of a potential change in policy is nearing its final stages, according to outside scouting supporters. If approved, the change could be announced as early as next week, after the BSA’s national board holds a regularly scheduled meeting.
Now, there is a dark-lining to this cloud. As the story notes, the Scouts are still considering letting local troops discriminate against gay Scouts and gay troop leaders. And that’s hardly acceptable. But it becomes much harder for local troops to defend their bigotry when the national organization is no longer willing to lend its (im)moral support. This won’t be a full victory for civil rights advocates, but it will be a significant one nonetheless.
In conjunction with the recent video produced by One Colorado featuring NBA basketballer Kenneth Fareid and his two mothers, along with prominent NFL players Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo advocating gay marriage, this shift would serve as further evidence Romney adviser Dave Kochel is right, “the culture wars are kind of over and Republicans largely lost.”
But given a choice between losing professional sports or the Boy Scouts, I would have to imagine that this latest news about the Scouts stings a bit more for American social conservatives.
The GOP base’s fixation on the mythical “Leave it to Beaver,” white-picket-fence purity of the 1950s, or what present-day conservatives call “the good ole days,” is closely associated with the Boy Scouts playing a large role in the formative years of our nation’s male youth.
Boy Scouts learn how to be men: hardy, chivalrous and, of course, straight. If the Boy Scouts can no longer find it in their hearts to discriminate against gays, who in mainstream American culture can?
If the Boy Scouts, a supposed last bastion of old-fashioned American family values, can acknowledge that being gay is normal, it will mean more than acceptance for the many who would have otherwise been shut out of Scouts or forced to hide their identity. It will mean that those who would discriminate against members of the LGBT community will be well on their way towards finding themselves out of the norm, they themselves becoming the abnormal outcasts of an increasing tolerant society.