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February 06, 2013

No surprise: Boy Scouts of America punts – no vote on its ban on gay members

Posted in: Activism,Allies,Discrimination,Family Matters,LGBT

I have to say that I was not surprised at this news at all. The media maelstrom about this topic rendered the decision by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board so hot — the here-come-the-pedophiles/America-values-are-being-destroyed camp versus the camp reflecting the increasing acceptance of LGBTs in contemporary American culture — left the Boy Scouts with a no-win situation, if you’re going strictly by PR. So they punted. (Dallas Voice):

The decision came early in the third day of the board’s three-day meeting at the DFW Airport Marriott. A possible vote was expected today, but the board has decided to discus the issue more at its national board meeting in May where 1,400 members will vote on a resolution. That meeting will take place May 22 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine.

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement. “To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards.”

Yeah, the BSA will need a lot of careful consideration about what the fallout may or may not be. Personally, I think of the Girl Scouts don’t have a problem with non-heterosexual membership, the Boy Scouts need to get with the times. But in the “real world” of media wall-to-wall coverage, I doubt the org is prepared when both sides were at the ready with reactions to the delay in action. Take hate group head Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:

“The leaders of the Boy Scouts were wise not to abandon their longstanding national membership standards, as they were reportedly on the brink of doing. We thank the Scout parents and members of the public who responded to these reports with an overwhelming outpouring of support for maintaining the Scouts’ timeless values that have served the Scouts and the nation well for 103 years.

“However, it is not enough that they postpone a decision. Instead, the BSA board should publicly re-affirm their current standards, as they did just last July. We look forward to continuing to work with scouting parents, leaders of the faith-based organizations that charter over two-thirds of the packs and the troops.  We will also continue to communicate with the Scout leadership about the grave consequences that would result if they were to compromise their moral standards in the face of threats from corporate elites and homosexual activists.”

BTW, Perkins made an @ss out of himself on CNN earlier today, going on and on about the “safety” of the boys around other boys or scout leaders who might be gay (despite the org’s massive scandal of scout abuse with its gay ban in place); Soledad O’Brien reminded him that one of those affected by the ban who followed him on the air to discuss the issue was a lesbian den mother booted from her troop.

That lesbian mom is Jennifer Tyrrell from Bridgeport, Ohio. She was the leader of her son’s Cub Scout Pack in April 2012. Tyrrell, with the support of GLAAD, started a petition on Change.org that rallied hundreds of thousands urging the Boy Scouts to welcome gay Scouts and leaders.

Right, courtesy of GLAADOn February 4, 2013, ousted Boy Scout mom Jennifer Tyrrell, gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver, gay former Scoutmaster Greg Bourke, and Eric Andresen, father of a gay Scout denied his Eagle Award convened on the Boy Scouts of America’s headquarters and brought the voices of more than a million Americans who want the BSA to end its ban on gay scouts and volunteers.

Tyrell’s reaction to today’s statement by the BSA:

“A scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave today,” said Tyrrell, who was in Dallas on Monday to deliver the signatures from her Change.org petition. “The Boy Scouts had the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents, but they’ve failed us yet again. No parent should have to look their child in the eye and explain that the Boy Scouts don’t want us.”“Our fight will continue,” added Tyrrell, “and we will continue to educate donors and supporters of the Boy Scouts about the effects of their anti-gay policy.”

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick:

 ”An organization that serves youth and chooses to intentionally hurt dedicated young people and hardworking parents not only flies in the face of American principles, but the principles of being a Boy Scout,” said . “The Boy Scouts of America is choosing to ignore the cries of millions, including religious institutions, current scouting families, and corporate sponsors, but these cries will not be silenced. We’re living in a culture where hurting young gay people because of who they are is unpopular and discriminatory. They had the chance to end the pain this ban has caused to young people and parents, they chose to extend the pain.”

Closer to home, here’s the reaction from my friend Matt Comer, editor of Charlotte LGBT community newspaper QNotes and a former Scout dismissed at age 14 after starting a gay-straight alliance at his Winston-Salem, NC through The Inclusive Scouting Network, which he co-founded:

While it is disappointing the Boy Scouts of America decided not to take any action on their national anti-gay membership and leadership policy today, we are encouraged knowing that this discussion, the first and only time national BSA leaders have openly indicated they are ready to accept gay Scouts, will continue.

Today’s action by the BSA’s National Executive Board is not a “no;” instead, it is an opportunity for Scouts and Scouters across the country, from the local level to the national level, to continue to press for positive change. We are hopeful that this process will include Scouts and Scouters who have already been subjected to discrimination by the Boy Scouts of America, and we will work diligently to highlight voices of inclusion from local units and chartering organizations across the country in the lead up to May’s national council vote.

In their first edition of the Boy Scouts Handbook in 1911, the Boy Scouts promised that “every American boy shall have the opportunity of becoming a good scout.” It is time for the Boy Scouts of America to live up to the great American ideals and principles they have embodied for more than a century by saying, “We don’t discriminate and discrimination is not okay — period.”

Based on recent polls — including this one from Quinnipiac University — there is public support for lifting the ban.

Strongest support for ending the ban comes from women and Roman Catholics, but a plurality of men and mainline Protestants also support ending the ban. African American and Hispanic people polled showed strong support for ending the ban.

* White Catholics support gay scouts 63 – 25 percent.
* 57 percent of Black and Hispanic people support gay scouts.
* 62 percent of 18-29 year-olds and 61 percent of 30-44 year-olds support gay scouts.

The poll also pointed to the decline in membership numbers. One troubling finding for Scouting in America is that 54 percent of voters say they were Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, while only 36 percent of voters, including 55 percent of former scouts, say they have children in Scouting.

The dilemma for the BSA is that to partially or fully remove its ban is that it believes it will undermine the Supreme Court ruling that allowed its ban to remain in place to date — a private organization determining its membership. Be that as it may (I don’t think it actually does), this move to remove the ban is from the result of growing cultural change, not fiat.

It has to decide whether all of the financial donations and support it has lost from corporate America because of its gay ban is worth holding onto its discriminatory policies.  One of the arguments  represented by Tony Perkins is that there will be a mass exodus from Scouting if the ban is lifted, led by “Christians” who oppose the idea of gay scouts and scout leaders existing in its ranks openly (because obviously they’ve already been there, albeit closeted). That may or may not occur, but the BSA is going to slowly bleed no matter what its decision is. It has just decided to wring their hands over this and let the PR on both sides continue, perhaps in the (futile) hope it will blow over. Not. Going. To. Happen. This particular issue is one of the cultural flashpoints for the social/religious conservative movement as well as the full equality advocates.


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