Leaders of the Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to allow gay youths into their organization, which has long denied membership to homosexuals. But is this a victory for gays and their advocates?
More than 60 percent of the nation’s 1,400 Scout leaders voted in favor of the change in official policy at the group’s annual meeting in Texas. BSA member rules will now read: “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
Gay Scout leaders are still banned from the organization, however. The policy will be implemented in more than 116,000 Scouting units Jan. 1.
The BSA said: “While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens.”
But are gay kids better off in the Boy Scouts? What does growing “into good, strong citizens” mean in a group that is still dominated by Christian values? Can you imagine being told as a gay 12-year-old that you are now able to openly join your mostly straight peers, who distinguish themselves and get their kicks largely by mocking and teasing? Would you want to spend your weekends, weekday afternoons and long stretches of summer among boys whose dominant influence—which includes the Roman Catholic, Mormon and Southern Baptist churches—remains hostile to your biology? And in an organization that still won’t recognize the political equality of your gay elders?
It’s not clear that the Boy Scouts’ decision will benefit gay children, or that it counts as anything more than a political move to serve the group’s image in a country that is, at least on its face, rapidly integrating its homosexual population via changes in marriage laws.
Those who want to celebrate this supposed victory have to deal with what these remaining problems mean in practice for the organization’s “newly liberated” gay youth members.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
Gay-rights groups used the affirmation to reinvigorate the fight against the ban, and numerous online campaigns emerged in support of the campaign. Barack Obama said in February that he would like to see the ban lifted.
… Those in support of the ban were comprised primarily of religious groups and older scouting parents. “Views among parents under the age of 50 have changed significantly in the past three years, with a majority now opposing the BSA’s current policy,” reads the BSA voting information packet.
According to the AP, 70% of the more than 100,000 scouting units in the US are chartered by religious organizations. Though some of those groups don’t support the ban, the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Southern Baptist churches have supported it in the past.
Robert Goodwin (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Scouting oath ends with a promise to be “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”