Editorial: Proposal for Boy Scout reform is not enough
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 20:01
After deciding last July to keep its ban on gay members, the Boy Scouts of America announced this week that they are reconsidering their policy. A spokesman for the organization stated that its board of directors is considering eliminating its nationwide ban on gay scouts and instead, allowing local affiliates to make their own decisions on whether or not to exclude gays and lesbians. While a small step in the right direction, we think that this change would be insufficient and that the BSA should set a national policy forbidding troops from discriminating against members based on sexual preference.
The Boy Scouts’ reconsideration of its policy comes amidst a large movement by scouts, their families and corporate donors who are opposed to its current discriminatory practices. Zach Wals, an Eagle Scout raised by two loving mothers, worked with fellow Eagles to create Scouts for Equality, a group dedicated to ending exclusion in scouting. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a national advocacy organization, gathered over 1.2 million signatures on a Change.org petition opposing the discriminatory policy. Additionally, many corporate sponsors, including the United Parcel Service (UPS) and pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., have suspended their financial support of the organization until the policy is changed.
While it will be beneficial for local affiliates to stop being faced with the tough decision of excluding gay members or defying the national organization, that is not enough. Keeping a policy that allows local groups to continue excluding gays and lesbians from scouting and leadership roles will only perpetuate the BSA’s reputation as an intolerant and discriminatory organization. Many scouts and parents have broken ties with the organization due to its anti-gay policy, and the minor change being proposed will not be enough to bring many of them back.
Some will object to a national anti-discrimination policy, claiming that it would destroy partnerships that the Boy Scouts have with churches and other organizations who object to gay rights. However, we feel that this is not enough of a reason to continue allowing local affiliates to discriminate. The clear trend in public opinion nationwide is towards more support for gay rights, with a majority of Americans now supporting gay marriage, compared to only about 25 percent approval 20 years ago. In order to stay relevant in today’s changing world, the Boy Scouts need to adapt.
Many other groups have instituted similar anti-discrimination policies with great success. The Girl Scouts of America has accepted open lesbians for decades, a policy which has not harmed them as an organization. In 2011, Barack Obama – who, as president of the United States, is automatically the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America – ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. This change has not led to any of the problems that its detractors warned of before its passage.
Therefore, we think that the Boy Scouts of America should implement a nationwide anti-discrimination policy, rather than stop with the minor change currently on the table. If this small reform is passed next week, donors such as UPS and Merck should continue their suspension of funding for the national organization and only fund local affiliates who accept openly gay members.