In a significant climb down, the Boy Scouts of America are about to pass a resolution that would lift the ban on gay scouts, but maintain it for adults.
The shift comes after a review of the long-standing policy that began in February, with surveys of adult members, parents, alumni, teens, donors, religious partners and scouting leaders. Since the Boy Scouts announced in January that they would reconsider the ban, both supporters and opponents of the ban have been lobbying leadership aggressively.
“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 organization said in a statement. According to the group’s review, a majority of adults in the organization’s community still support the ban. However, parents under 50 oppose it. So do teens both inside and outside the Boy Scouts. Slightly less than half of parents of current scouts support it.
The group originally considered a compromise that would let local scouting organizations decide their own policies on homosexuals. The study found that idea generally unpopular.
Under the new resolution, the Boy Scouts will continue to bar adult leaders “who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
Religious chartered organizations, which run the majority of Boy Scout units, told the national group that they were particularly concerned with allowing gay adult leaders and that including both gay youths and adults could cost the organization over 100,000 members.
There are about 2.7 million youth members of the Boy Scouts and about 1 million adult leaders. About 70 percent of units are chartered by faith-based organizations, with the Mormon church leading the most groups.
Despite disagreement about the ban, parents, teens and the scouting community at large agreed that an openly gay youth should not be denied an Eagle Scout award because of his sexual orientation. A 16-year-old gay scout from California, Ryan Andresen, was denied the Eagle Scout badge last year and has been held up by opponents as an example of the current policy’s injustice. A lesbian mother also became a national figure last year when she was removed from her position as den mother in a Cub Scout troop.
It’s logically inconsistent to allow gay scouts but not gay scoutmasters. But then, there is no logic at work here — just fear and emotion. The BSA doesn’t want to be seen as bigoted or out of touch with the modern world. At the same time, they can only go so far in accommodating their critics before their religious affiliates revolt. Hence, this very unsatisfactory compromise that will only embolden their critics and upset the churches.
If scouting is supposed to mold young boys into men with good character, then teaching a lesson in tolerance is not a bad idea. But placing limits on that tolerance by denying adult males the opportunity to impart their life lessons to the young based on their sexual orientation is confusing and ultimately, self defeating for the cause of scouting.