The Boy Scouts of America recently announced that the organization’s executive board will vote in May on whether to lift the ban on openly gay Scouts and troop leaders. After a century of discrimination, it’s time for the BSA to do the right thing.
The BSA no longer has the luxury of pushing gay people to the side and punishing boys and their families for something that isn’t their fault—boys like Ryan Andresen, the California Boy Scout who was denied the Eagle Scout award he had earned when he came out as gay.
Yes, the BSA is a private organization. But that doesn’t give it a free pass to discriminate. We would do well to remember that there was a time in our country when people could be denied service in stores and restaurants because of their race. At that time, business owners were standing by their own beliefs—but that didn’t make it right. Are we going to remain silent while the Boy Scouts of America stand by their discriminatory practices? Will we do nothing?
It may seem like there’s nothing we can do to influence the BSA, but that isn’t the case. As with most matters, it’s possible to speak with one’s wallet. Donate money to other organizations. Buy an extra box of Thin Mints. The Girl Scouts don’t discriminate, so think of the cookies as a reward for supporting equality.
For those seeking inclusive organizations for their children, BSA isn’t the only option. Support non-discriminatory organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Girl Scouts, Camp Fire Boys and Girls, and 4-H.
Some argue that banning gays from the organization is meant to “protect” the boys. Protect them from what, exactly? We all know—and have known for a long time—that homosexuality isn’t a disease or a disorder. It’s perfectly normal, and it isn’t catching. What’s more, gay Scout leaders and parent volunteers pose no more danger to the Scouts than straight leaders and volunteers. To assume otherwise is plain bigotry, both ignorant and disgusting.
There’s no getting around it: The BSA’s discrimination is hurtful and wrong. This policy takes people—real, whole people with real, whole lives—and boils them down to a single aspect of their personhood. But human beings are much more than their sexuality.
Is a straight person’s heterosexuality the single most important part of who he or she is? Is it his or her defining trait? Does it determine whether he or she is kind or brave, or can do some good for other people?
No, and the same is true for gay people. It’s time the Boy Scouts of America figured that out.
Scout Law states: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
Let those qualities be the ones that determine a Scout’s eligibility, not sexual orientation—because, in the end, those are the traits that really matter.
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