Boy Scouts take step toward modernity
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 07:02
The Boy Scouts of America, the 102-year-old institution that has been an undeniable influence on hundreds of thousands of young men in America, has finally moved into the 21st century when it comes to equal rights for the gay and lesbian community.
Sunday, the board of the organization will vote whether or not to lift the ban on gay leaders and Scouts that has been in place since 1980. If the bill passes, the local troops will decide whether or not to allow openly gay members in.
This decision follows years of controversy and bad press for the organization that was lambasted in the media for rejecting the applications of gay Scouts for Scouting’s highest honor, the Eagle Scout award, and barring gay and lesbian leaders from joining as leaders in the troop.
Eagle Scout filmmaker Steven Spielberg resigned from the Board of Advisors for the Boy Scouts of America in 2001 in protest to the ban on gay Scouts and leaders. The organization, based out of Texas, has always been prone to making more conservative policy decisions based on religious values.
The similarities to the way Scouting approached the African-American civil rights movement and the way they are handling the current issue of gay and lesbian civil rights are striking. In 1910, when the organization was founded, there was a clause stating individuals of any race and creed were allowed to participate, but the actual implementation came about when local troops decided to integrate, with most doing so in the late 1940s. While not exactly progressive, the move was far more advanced than most of American society at that time.
The gay and lesbian community has to be thrilled with the board’s decision. The change of heart by one of the most socially conservative groups in America has to bode well for the gay civil rights movement and suggests that more change is coming – perhaps in the form of more states legalizing gay marriage in the 2014 midterm elections.
As an Eagle Scout myself, I have always been uncomfortable with the Boy Scouts of America’s position on allowing gay members in. After all, it’s not as if gays are fundamentally unable to follow the tenets of the Scout Law or obey the Scout Oath. I’m sure there are many gay Scouts equally deserving of the honor of being an Eagle Scout as I am. All this talk of gay leaders being more likely to be pedophiles is hideous and pseudo-factual slander, and years of straight male leadership did nothing to prevent sexual abuse in troops all across America.
Scouting was an important part of my life, and it definitely helped shape me into the person I am today, and because it was so important to me, I want others to be able to experience the same things, regardless of sexual orientation. Without Scouts, I would have been deprived of many of my closest friendships and some of the most important experiences of my life, like hiking in the backwoods of New Mexico on the Scout reservation Philmont.
Being a part of the Scouts was also important to my parents, who were leaders in some capacity along the way, and I would hate for gay parents of Scouts to be unable to be involved in the way my parents were because of their sexual orientation.
Bravery is a key tenet of the Scout Law. I hope the board shows the bravery to overturn the ban on gays, and I hope the local troops show the bravery to accept them.
Friendliness is also a key tenet of the Scout Law. Let us welcome anyone who wishes to join the Scouts with open arms and open minds.