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Report: End of Boy Scouts Ban on Gay Scouts and Scout Leaders Imminent

Jim Burroway

January 28th, 2013

This is a really, really big deal. NBC’s Pete Williams broke the story this morning that the t Boy Scouts of America is “actively considering” and end to its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders:

If adopted by the organization’s board of directors, it would represent a profound change on an issue that has been highly controversial — one that even went to the US Supreme Court. The new policy, now under discussion, would eliminate the ban from the national organization’s rules, leaving local sponsoring organizations free to decide for themselves whether to admit gay scouts.

“The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” according to Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts’ national organization.

Individual sponsors and parents “would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families,” Smith said.

The discission is reportedly in its “final stages.” It’s important to note that the change in policy will allow individual boy scout troops to decide for themselves whether they will accept gay scout members or leaders. Because many LGBT-affirming churches and organizations sponsor troops, the Scouts’ ban on gay members and leaders have placed those organizations’ affirmative beliefs and policies in an untenable conflict with the BSA. Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts have been the de-facto youth group the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, where every Mormon boy is automatically enrolled and the vast majority are active members. By pushing the policy decision to a local level, the BSA appears to be aiming for a compromise which would allow all of the sponsoring organizations to remain affiliated with Scouting.

The change could be finalized next week when the board holds its annual meeting. Welcome to the twenty-first century, scouts!

It was just last July when it was announced that a double super-secret panel at BSA had recommended that the ban on gay scout members and leaders remain in place. That announcement came under outgoing BSA president, Rex Tillerson, who is also the CEO of ExxonMobil, a company with the lowest possible rating on LGBT equality from the Human Rights Campaign. The new BSA president, Wayne Perry, who retired from McCaw Cellular which became a part of AT&T — which, by the way, has a perfect score from HRC. Other BSA board members, namely James Turley, global chairman and CEO of tax firm Ernst & Young, and AT&T’s chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, also voiced their opposition to the ban.

Update: The New York Times has more on the pending policy change:

“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, Deron Smith, said in a statement.

Mr. Smith added: “The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.” He said that members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families

Comments

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David Roberts
January 28th, 2013 | LINK

“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents.”

Haven’t they been doing this all along, dictating that they not allow gays? Seems rather cowardly to simply eliminate the prohibition without giving it the same force of the original. It’s something, but hardly what it should be.

I hope those who have been withholding donations over this will choose carefully which chapters to donate to should some start allowing gays to participate equally.

Ben In Oakland
January 28th, 2013 | LINK

This is a big deal in a lot of ways.

As people in business will tell you, the secret to success is location, location, location.

In this particular case, the handwriting is located on the wall, the support for this nutty policy is not located in so many communities, and the money is no longer located in the bank account.

Priya Lynn
January 28th, 2013 | LINK

There’s gonna be some big time whining from the anti-gays over this hee hee.

Michael C
January 28th, 2013 | LINK

I think this is a wonderful step that will hopefully have a positive effect for thousands of young men and boys.

…but I guess I view this potential change of BSA policy with a fair amount of cynicism. With major corporations withholding donations, this seems like a way to maintain discriminatory policies at the ground level while appeasing corporate donors that have non-discrimination policies.

Local boy scout groups will continue to eject gay youth. Many will not be able to simply “choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”

Timothy Kincaid
January 28th, 2013 | LINK

Priya,

I think we may want to invest in earplugs. The shrillness of their whining is sure to be deafening.

But considering that the Scouts were not force by the courts or The Evil Obama Empire, it will be fun to watch them look for someone to blame. I’m guessing it won’t be either the Eagle Scouts that returned their badges or the corporations who said “no more”.

Hunter
January 28th, 2013 | LINK

Somebody was feeling the heat. This is probably the best to be hoped for from the national BSA leadership, and it’s a good shift — return the choice to the local organizations and keep the national office out of it.

Michael C: it’s a lot easier to pressure a local council than a national office that’s getting major support from two huge anti-gay churches. And maybe some of those corporations will wise up and target their donations.

gsingjane
January 29th, 2013 | LINK

In some ways this debate reminds me a lot of the marriage debate… is it better for some places to have marriage equality while others don’t, or is it better for nobody to have it until everybody does? In my view, just as most people would agree it’s better for some folks to be able to get married, it’s also better for at least some Scouts not to have to deal with “the policy.” It would be nice if they changed it for everyone, but especially given the history and the constituency, this is way, way better than nothing. Plus… I have an 85 year old friend who was kicked out of BSA for being gay, and he never thought he’d live to see this day. Now he can, hopefully!

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