Scouts’ National Council Voting on May 20
On April 19, 2013, the Scouts announced that the proposal to lift the ban for gay youth members, but keep the ban for adult leaders who are lesbian or gay would be submitted to over 1,400 voting members of its National Council on May 20. If the resolution is approved, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone, “Deron Smith, the BSA’s spokesman stated.
During this past January, the Boy Scouts of America was considering a plan to give sponsors of local Scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them. However, the BSA changed its course owing to the surveys sent out to the Scouting community’s million members, starting in February.
The organization sent out about one million surveys and heard from 200,000 respondents, including many churches and religious organizations who are large supporters of scouting.
The results? Sixty-one percent favored keeping the current policy of excluding gays while thirty-four percent did not. However, among parents, 45% opposed the existing ban while 42% supported it. A majority of teens opposed the ban. Three years ago, 58% supported the ban. The BSA in a statement said “while perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting. “ The proposed resolution also reinforces that “Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
A divisive Issue
Gay-rights groups and other have been pressing the Scouts to end the ban. Said Richard Ferraro, the vice- president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination, “what this resolution appears to be doing is reinforcing the outrageous idea that gay people somehow pose a threat to kids, which experts like the American Psychological Association have dismissed for more than a decade.” Four experts consulted by the Scouts, according to the summary, said, that homosexuality is not a risk factor for sexual abuse and that there was no evidence that having a gay leader would alter a child’s sexual orientation.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the BSA hadn’t gone far enough. “What message does this resolution send to the gay Eagle Scout who, as an adult, wants to continue a lifetime of Scouting by becoming a troop leader?”
For some gay scouts like Ryan Andresen of California, this policy will come too late. Last year, Ryan was denied his Eagle Scout award because he is gay. ‘Had this proposed policy been enacted just a few months ago, Ryan would have received his Eagle award. Now that he’s 18, under the proposed policy, he would once again be rejected by the Boy Scouts.’
More conservative members have advocated maintaining the ban, which the Scouts defended before the Supreme Court in 2000. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest organization for Scouts troops, is non-commital about the ban at this point. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the policy is incoherent. “ The proposal says in essence, that homosexuality is morally acceptable until a boy turns 18- then, when he comes of age, he’s removed for the Scouts.” The Family Research Council has been circulating an online petition urging the BSA to keep the ban.
Besides the Mormon Church, many scout units are sponsored by relatively religious denominations that have supported the ban on gays in the past, notably the Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Churches. They have expressed concern over having gay adult leaders and were less concerned about gay youth members.
The survey gauged the proposal’s impact on financial support. Local Scout councils reported that fifty-one percent of their major donors opposed easing the ban, while a majority of Fortune 500 companies supported a change.
Outcome in May
The BSA has anticipated that easing the ban on gay adults might prompt between 100,000 and 350,000 members to leave the organization which now has 2.6 million youth members. Gay-friendly scouting group, Navigators USA, now has forty-five chapters in twenty-one states, with nineteen chapters since March 2012.