Despite a push for change, including by at least two of its board members, the Boy Scouts of America has reaffirmed its longstanding exclusion of openly gay boys as members and gay parents as Scout leaders.
But news of the decision, which broke on Tuesday, July 17, has not deterred Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mother from Bridgeport, Ohio, who was ousted as her son’s den leader in April, from pressing her case.
On Wednesday, July 18, arriving in at Scout headquarters in Irving, Texas, Tyrrell, who has made national headlines this spring, delivered to BSA leadership an online petition with more than 300,0000 signatures.
Change.org wants policy to change
The Change.org petition calls for a reconsideration of “exclusivity against gay youth and leaders” and “an end of discrimination in an organization that is shaping the future.”
And yet the Scout leadership had already made up its mind – even before Tyrrell arrived.
In explaining its policy reaffirmation, an 11-member special committee that Scout leaders formed discreetly in 2010 concluded that “current policy remains the best interest of Scouting,” according to a BSA press release and Associated Press reporting.
Open homosexuals need not apply
Current organizational policy reads, “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
For his part, Bob Mazzuca, BSA’s chief scout executive, said in a statement, “While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”
He added, “The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”
The news came after a 19-year-old Scout, Eric Jones, was kicked out of his Missouri troop Sunday after coming out to his director at summer camp.
LGBT Reactions to intolerant & openly anti-gay Boy Scouts of America
LGBT rights groups reacted strongly to the Scouts’ decision to remain anti-gay.
“This is a missed opportunity of colossal proportions,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement.
“With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued. These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they’ve chosen to teach division and intolerance,” he added.
“Clinging to a policy of exclusion and intolerance is hardly a good lesson for our young people,” said Darlene Nipper, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s deputy executive director.
No fairness, just bias and prejudice
“Once again, officials of the Boy Scouts of America have turned their backs on a chance to demonstrate fairness, exercise sound judgment, and serve as a role model for valuing others, free of bias and prejudice,” she added. “This is deeply disappointing. Discrimination is never the right policy, period.”
GLAAD: No fairness in such a treatment
Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, offered another assessment. “With organizations including the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and the U.S. military allowing gay Americans to participate, the Boy Scouts of America need to find a way to treat all children and their parents fairly,” he said in a news release.
“Until this ban is lifted, the Scouts are putting parents in a situation where they have to explain to their children why some Scouts and hard-working Scout leaders are being turned away simply because of who they are,” said Graddick. “It’s unfair policies like this that contribute to a climate of bullying in our schools and communities. Since when is that a value worth teaching young adults?”
Openly gay Scouts once supported by Mitt Romney
Oddly enough, presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney once voiced support for openly gay Scouts.
“I believe that the Boy Scouts of America does a wonderful service for this country,” he said in a 1994 U.S. senatorial debate, according to a GLAAD website posting. “I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”
At that time Romney was a member of BSA’s National Executive Board. His opponent in the Massachusetts race was the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D).
Private organization was key in High Court decision
For more than three decades, the Scouts have maintained an anti-gay policy. Moreover, in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the Scouts’ right to dismiss a gay assistant scoutmaster, saying that as a private organization, it had the right to decide whichever values it wishes to communicate.
In recent weeks two members of the Boy Scouts’ board, James Turley, chairman and CEO of Ernst and Young, and Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, had said they would advocate a change in the Scouts’ policy. AT&T released a statement Tuesday saying that change must come from within, the New York Times reported.
Girl Scouts know best
Meanwhile, in the wake of the Boy Scouts’ move to retain its discriminatory gay ban, the Girl Scouts of America reaffirmed its commitment to non-discrimination.
The “Girl Scouts of the USA and its local councils and troops value diversity and inclusiveness and do not discriminate or recruit on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, national origin, or physical or developmental disability,” the organization said in July 19 blog posting, under the headline “Inclusion: Past, Present, and Future.”
Panama Latin Boy Scouts follow their American anti-gay’s policy too, not Costa Rica
But in Central America, the National Association of Boy Scouts in Panama announced it would remove from membership openly gay youths or adults.
“We cannot allow the participation of people who have tendencies which are opposed to the formation of our values”, Victor Winter, the association’s executive director, told La Prensa, the blog Blabbeando reported in a July 20 posting.
The Boy Scouts in Panama’s policy states, “Discrimination based on gender will not be allowed, with the understanding that no members with obvious homosexual behaviors or who admit being homosexual will be admitted. Sexual harassment will also not be permitted. Said infractions, if proven, will lead to the expulsion of the person committing them.”
Meanwhile, in nearby Costa Rica, the executive director of that country’s Guides and Scouts Association told La Nación it would retain its non-discriminatory policy towards gays and lesbians, Blabbeando reported.
© Copyright. Chuck Colbert. All rights reserved.