Proposed resolution would allow gay scouts, ban gay parents from serving as leaders
By: Lauren Walleser/ TRT Reporter—
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) recently announced that they have proposed a resolution to lift the nationwide ban on gay youth, but would continue to prevent gay adults and gay parents from participating in the organization. The resolution — which will be voted on by the BSA’s National Council in May — comes on the heels of more than 1.6 million signatures on a Change.org petition urging the BSA to end its anti-gay policy.
Eric Andresen, who has continued to campaign against the discriminatory policy since his son Ryan was denied his Eagle rank because he is gay, shared why he thinks the BSA has proposed to allow gay youth but not gay adults.
“For whatever reason, the BSA seems to be afraid of its own shadow,” Andresen said. “They say that they think the gay youth proposal has a better chance of passing the vote in May, which may be true, but I think they’re just concerned about how some of the church-based members will react and are afraid of the perceived consequences.” [pullquote]“I worry about how the boys who are gay will handle knowing they will be dismissed at 18,” Tyrell said.[/pullquote]
Greg Bourke, a gay former assistant Scoutmaster, was removed from his son’s Boy Scout troop because of his sexual orientation, echoed Anderson’s sentiments.
“The Church of Latter Day Saints and the Catholic Church are two of the largest sponsors of Boy Scout Troops across the country. The proposed change to BSA membership policy is consistent with the current theological stand of both these churches,” Bourke said. “In addition, the BSA is still reeling from its own child abuse scandal and the horrible PR it received from its court ordered release of BSA ‘perversion files.’ Many BSA staff and adult members still inappropriately assume all homosexuals are also pedophiles. The BSA is unnecessarily afraid of exposing youth and itself to additional harm or potential criticism at this time.”
Bourke added that while it may take decades to see real changes in the culture and attitudes of the BSA even after the resolution is passed, he could see the benefits to scouts and youth even beyond the BSA.
“Scouting involves millions of youth across our country,” Bourke said. “The fact that scouting still is not a safe place for kids to come out is reprehensible. Any youth development organization should provide a safe and supportive climate in which they can feel comfortable being who they are and not afraid of expulsion or bullying because they are different. If the BSA allows open gay youth to become members it will eventually lead to greater acceptance and inclusiveness of gay youth throughout our society.”
Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted as the leader of her son’s Cub Scout Pack in April 2012 because of her sexual orientation and helped start a petition to fight BSA’s policy, said the resolution was a “half solution” that would not fix the BSA’s discriminatory practices.
“I worry about how the boys who are gay will handle knowing they will be dismissed at 18,” Tyrell said. “I also think the boys will find it hard to commit their whole hearts to an organization that they know will turn their back on him, no matter his success as a scout. I also, still disagree that LGBT parents are refused the opportunity to experience scouting with their children.”
Zach Wahls, the straight Eagle scout of a lesbian couple and Founder and Executive Director of Scouts for Equality, said that the proposal is a step in the right direction and is worth celebrating, although there is still more work to be done. [pullquote]“The reality is that there are already tens of thousands of Scouts and Scout leaders who are in the BSA who are gay,” said Wahls.[/pullquote]
“The reality is that there are already tens of thousands of Scouts and Scout leaders who are in the BSA who are gay,” said Wahls. “Some of them will come out after this policy is lifted and some of them will not. As more and more Scouters come out though, those who remain opposed to the inclusion of gay youth and parents will understand that there is nothing of which to be afraid.”
Despite the upset and trauma the discriminatory policy has had on Andresen’s family, he said he has been amazed by the support and empathy throughout the campaign.
“We have been given a unique chance to impact national and global change, and that’s not only humbling but extremely gratifying,” Andresen said.
Tyrell has started a new petition asking the BSA to reconsider the proposed resolution in favor of a more inclusive one, which can be found at www.change.org/denmother. She has also joined up with The NOH8 Campaign in launching a project asking scouts to come to any open photo shoot in uniform and with scout ID to get a photo, free of charge. Details can be found at www.noh8campaign.com/article/bsa-call-to-action.
The Rainbow Times, via this reporter, attempted to reach the BSA for comment. Our inquiries were not returned.