Why it’s important to me that gays are accepted by the BSA.

Earlier today, the Boy Scouts of America posted a media statement regarding their controversial policy of not allowing homosexuals to participate in the Boy Scouts. It was really a pretty empty statement where they’re “discussing potentially removing the restriction,” and later they recant even further by citing that the local groups that charter every scout group would still have the freedom to regulate their own members as they saw fit, basically meaning that if your local scout troop is sponsored by an LDS Church that is still emphatically anti-gay, you’re still out of luck. I honestly don’t even know why they would post such a non-statement statement unless they were just trying to stir things up and rally supporters of their existing discriminatory policies…

…which might actually be the case because boy, is there one ugly comment thread brewing about this on the BSA’s Facebook page tonight! I found myself getting sucked into it there for a while, then I finally took a break to go walk the dog and decided that it might be more productive for me to write down some of my thoughts here instead. The truth is, I’ve been finding myself more and more passionate about the issue of gay rights lately, and so I guess I wanted to take a few minutes here to talk about why this one in particular hits so close to home.

I grew up in the Boy Scouts – probably spent 14 years of my life from 1st grade until a year after I graduated from high school actively involved in Scouting, and admittedly about double that if you subscribe to the mantra, “Once an Eagle Scout, Always an Eagle Scout.” I had a lot of great times through all of those years doing all sorts of things that I can’t really imagine doing if I hadn’t been involved in Scouts – camping out in a snow bank in -20 degree weather, learning to SCUBA dive and diving in the Florida Keys, spending 5 years teaching ecology at summer camp, hosting lock-ins at the local Sportsplex – the list just goes on and on.

That said, there were also some less than fun times – namely near the very end of my involvement, learning that several of the adult leaders who I had grown to respect and admire over the years had been through affairs with other adult female scouters, all of which ultimately ended their marriages of many years. I don’t really want to say any more than that, but I’ve got to be honest that still as an adult today, it’s left a bit of a stain on what I know in my heart was otherwise still a great experience for me growing up…

When I look at gay rights, I guess I kind of think of it as the human rights movement of my generation. My parents and grandparents had the rights of African Americans, and ancestors before that struggled for Women’s Suffrage, but over time society finally came to its senses and decided that those groups deserved the same rights as the rest of the population, and hopefully within my lifetime gay people will also be able to say the same. And how this all circles back to the BSA for me is that, for an organization so directly responsible in shaping the morals that millions of boys and men have grown to live our lives by over the years, discrimination of anyone for any reason simply has no rightful place amongst its tenets. Any justification of these beliefs is irrelevant – we should not be teaching our boys that hate is acceptable. Period.

I think that the Boy Scouts of America are better than this. In fact, I know that the BSA is better than this, and so in a way I suppose it’s a little personal for me because in my own view of the organization I still have that ugly stain that I remember from my final days and frankly, I’d like to see something a little more meaningful take its place in how I see Scouting as a whole now today as an adult. Just like it wasn’t all of the leaders who were having extramarital affairs, it’s also not all of the leaders who are so stubbornly holding onto these bigoted and hate-filled beliefs, but it still presents a very ugly perspective on the Scouting movement right now that makes former scouts like me admittedly a bit reluctant to want to sign my own children up for Tiger Cubs when the time comes if they’re still clinging to ideals that don’t represent the same words that they lead the boys in reciting each week to kick off their meetings…

So if it sounds like I just won’t let up when it comes to gay rights, especially with regards to the Boy Scouts’ support or at best neutrality towards anti-gay membership policies, know that I want to see the group that I grew up with grow itself to move beyond such negativity and focus on enriching the lives of our nation’s youth, not reinforcing mentalities based on hate and discrimination. That’s not what the BSA is supposed to be about … or at least that’s not what it was ever about for me.

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