Boy Scouts could lift ban on gay scouts as early as next week

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.

NBC News reports:

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.”

During the 2012 campaign, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney said that the Boy Scouts should admit gay members.

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.


Jon Green is a graduate of Kenyon College with a degree in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. A veteran of the campaigns of Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and President Obama in 2012, he writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @JonGreen8, and on Google+. .

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  • http://www.facebook.com/ned.flaherty.3 Ned Flaherty

    Please submit 4 messages to the Boy Scouts in Irving, TX today. They’re going to vote shortly, and the religious right is bombarding them with hateful threats claiming that discrimination is necessary.

    Clear, short, and simple is best: “Dear Boy Scouts, Follow the successful leadership of the U.S. military and America’s biggest employers. CHANGE THE POLICY and stop using sexual orientation to ban people from Scout membership and employment.”

    phone: 1-972-580-2330

    e-mail: [email protected]

    Web: http://www.glaad.org/node/61982/done?sid=34020

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=136693109828603&id=113441755297

  • Naja pallida
  • dcinsider

    Please go to this poll and vote on Boy Scouts decision. Its being spammed by right wingers.

    http://www.necn.com/

  • rmthunter

    I wonder if this might work against them in some cases. Most LDS or RC sponsored chapters are probably in fairly conservative areas, but I very much doubt that all of them are. It occurs to me that it’s a lot easier to pressure a local chapter than a national office — after all, these are your neighbors. And BSA seems to have developed an allergy to controversy. (I wonder if that has any relation to the LDS Church’s recent about face on gay rights and/or the push-back from Prop 8.)

  • JamesR

    Your message is in direct contradiction to your self-righteous name.

    The life and exploits of Lord Baden Powell would not bear close scrutiny by you. And may I remind you that British scouting, in direct lineage to the heritage you are invoking, has no such discriminatory gay ban. Nor does most international scouting.

    I was a scout from 12 to 18, in an active and large Troop, and have traveled internationally as a Scout, was a troop leader, and am still a Scout in all the ways that matter though my membership in the BSA ended when I turned 18. I have never had the opportunity to repay the honor by volunteering in any capacity because of the gay ban assiduously enforced by the National Council ever since, though my home troop would probably have had me when I still lived nearby.

    Many troops have resisted the National Council of US scouting, which is in direct conflict with those values you purport to honor, for years. On the local level. If this rumor is true and the BSA will allow local control and discretion, it is the beginning of the end of the BSA’s misguided sectarian pogrom, and you and your ilk WILL HAVE LOST. And American Scouting will begin to re-align with the real original intent of it’s founder and of his own organization.

    Scouting has nothing to do with “Adam and Steve” You are an idiot.

    But on the off-chance you’re not a one hit wonder Troll, and will come back to your self-righteous profile and see this reply and have the courage or should I say honor to reply, I would ask: Were you a Scout as a boy? Are you employed by the BSA now or are you a volunteer, and in what capacity? Are you aware of the records, the work and the real honor of those Gay scouts and scout leaders who, because they are honorable, have chosen to challenge American Scouting’s divisive sectarian crusade? Are you aware of those such as James Dale and Steve Cozza? Or any of the more recent courageous real Scouts who fight because they are the honest and honorable examples Scouting made them??

    Scouting has nothing to do with sex and with a particular sect’s view of sexuality or theism. It’s about character, leadership, and working together despite differences and of service. I see nothing of this in your post “Avid BSA Supporter.” For shame.

  • UncleBucky

    Kinda like I went into my sister’s back yard, and didn’t know where I was stepping and got some “rick” on my shoe from where their dog usually does its stuff? Oh myyyy!

  • UncleBucky

    ” leaving local sponsoring organizations free to decide for themselves whether to admit gay scouts…”

    Nope. No good. That could leave the national organization giving lip service, and local groups still sticking the knife between the ribs of some scout.

    Step away. Don’t buy from BSA’s supporters.

    All or nothing. There.

  • Avid BSA Supporter

    Unfortunate. The decline of our culture’s morals is even compromising one of the premier youth programs intended to teach such values. For those saying scouting is a secular program, you know nothing about scouting as founded by Lord Baden Powell. Read the Scout Oath without saying the name of God. Shame on all supporters of gays in scouting. Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.

  • hollywoodstein

    Btw, did you see the Battleground Texas initiative?

  • hollywoodstein

    We are winning the culture wars. Slowly, then suddenly. We need to press advantage on all fronts and redefine what truly is a patriotic American, equality for all. There will still be deep attitudes of bigotry that will take lifetimes to change, but at least the letter of the law and the actions of the state should be unbiased.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Oh wow, did not realize that.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    True.

  • MyrddinWilt

    This might have a big impact on the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, the bill that the ‘states righters’ passed to force localities to provide facilities to bigoted organizations. (Funny how states rights never apply in those particular circumstances).

    At present the act prevents local authorities from enforcing anti-bigotry policies that might deny access to the BSA. But under the new regime any bigotry policies would be local affiliate policy rather than BSA policy and arguably no longer protected.

    It is not hard to see why the BSA is changing its tune here. They are facing a massive series of lawsuits following their own pedophile ‘ineligible volunteer file’ scandal.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/boy-scouts-release-perversion-files-article-1.1186343

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    All we need is something nice happening for “Blah” people and his ruination is complete.

    Well that, and for Dan Savage to keep his promise to redefine ‘Rick’ the same way he helped redefine ‘Santorum.’

  • Skeptical Cicada

    This local-option approach means that contributions to the National will still amount to providing financial support for discrimination.

  • Mighty

    Wingnutz can that’s who. Why is this happening? I get the feeling something may be changing behind the scenes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/larryfiehn Larry Fiehn

    It does not, Thom. That will come ,but first the organization must be ridded of a lot of fundamentalist religious nuts. This change will help propel the exit of religion whackos from what should be a secular organization.

  • http://www.facebook.com/larryfiehn Larry Fiehn

    Local, individual UNITS (Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops) not local “chapters” (Councils) will make the determination on their own unit’s policy. The BSA has been hemorrhaging membership and financial support for some time, due – in part – to this policy. This proposed change has largely been pushed by many active, registered leaders of good-will (including some at the National level of the BSA) who realize BSA must change or continue to become more and more irrelevant. If this change is implemented, it will return a lot of control to where it was at the start of Scouting in the USA: in the hands of local leaders, and not in the hands of the national professional leadership which has largely become beholden to fundamentalist religious groups, such as the LDS and Roman Catholic churches.

  • Bose

    A minor clarification on BSA/troop policies: It’s not just been gay scouts and leaders (many of whom are parents of scouts) it’s parents themselves who have historically been prevented from participation.

    Post-divorce, my ex made sure the troop my sons joined was run by members of the nearest fundamentalist church. Being openly gay meant I was barred from answering calls for volunteers at events where they needed a lot of adults.

    I could help my kid build his Pinewood Derby car at home, and I could be there for the big race day as a spectator, but heaven forbid that I wanted to be on any committee, or part of a serving line for a pancake supper.

    I’m happy to hear of possible progress at last, hopeful that it works out well for as many scouts, leaders and family as possible. I’ll remain guardedly optimistic until hearing more about the experiences of openly gay scouts, leaders at the next Jamboree. That should paint a clearer picture of whether the purported neutrality at the top of the BSA is authentic or segregationist — that non-discriminatory troops and their gay members remain marginalized.

  • Randy

    If they do this, and even if they leave it to the local chapters to continue their discrimination, it will be huge. Why? Because they fought so long and hard, all the way to the Supreme Court. And ever since, they have made it clear that gays (excuse, Homosexuals) are not allowed in scouting in any fashion because homosexuality is not “morally straight.”

    If they reverse, then it’s a stab in the back to all those who sided with them ever since their court case. It will stab Scalia and other judges who voted in their favor. It will stab those who stepped up and increased funding and support as others left.

    Furthermore, it sends a strong signal that the bigots can win in the election booth, they can in the legislatures, and they can win at the highest court levels, but in the end, they must still face reality and realize that they’ve lost.

    What’s more, no court or legislature is forcing them to reverse, so the haters have no one to blame. The haters will realize that even when you win, you can and will still lose.

    THAT, I hope, will really demoralize them!

  • S1AMER

    Yeah, I see United Way and some other charitable schemes as wrinkles to be worked out.

    On the other hand, I see great opportunities for enlightened people to get involved in sponsoring scouting chapters, so boys have an alternative to RC- or LDS-sponsored groups. And, of course, isn’t it about time America moved to “Scouting” and dropped this segregated boy-girl nonsense?

  • S1AMER

    Absolutely agree!

  • http://twitter.com/thomwatson Thom Watson

    I also hope that this new policy addresses the BSA’s discrimination against atheists, agnostics and non-theists in the same manner. If not, we need to keep the pressure on them to abolish that hateful discrimination as well.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yep, added that note to the story, about “locals can still discriminate.” Still, I agree, this is hugely significant.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Just added that to the story, thanks

  • pauljgo

    I’m naturally skeptical. I would imagine that the boy scouts have probably been affected by the united way (in some areas) excluding them from receiving funds that are not directly donated to them because of their discriminatory practices. If they remove the ban, then they probably get the funding while tolerating discrimination by individual troops.

  • caphillprof

    As long as gay scouts have access to Philmont, LDS and Catholic troops won’t last long.

  • caphillprof
  • S1AMER

    Uh, there is likely to be some small print, saying that the national scouting bosses are leaving acceptance or rejection up to local chapters. So all the scouts with the misfortune of being members of groups sponsored by, say, Catholic or LDS churches are still out of luck.

    Still, if this actually happens, it’s another HUGE stride forward toward full equality in America. And that, as our Vice President might say, is a BIG FUCKIN’ DEAL!

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    And that’s an example of an interesting thesis for a post :)

  • Naja pallida

    Women in combat. Some previously staunch supporters showing signs of giving up on DOMA. Potential amnesty path for illegal immigrants. Roe v. Wade polling at 70%. Now this… Worst week ever for Rick Santorum.

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