On Thursday May 23, 2013, the Boy Scouts of America National Council voted to allow youth who identify as gay to join the program and to participate until they turn 18, at which point they would not be asked to volunteer as an adult leader. This does allow for these youth to work toward and earn their Eagle Scout award, one of the most well-known and respected awards in the country.
You can read the official BSA Statement here. In case the link becomes broken, the statement is listed below for your convenience:
The Boy Scouts of America Statement:
“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.
“Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization’s long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting’s mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.
“Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.
“This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.
“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.
“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”
There was also a balanced New York Times article (which is surprising in and of itself) that you can read here.
While I am not a hardcore gay rights activist by any means, I do applaud the National Executive Board for coming to a decision on the matter. In my opinion, it’s a good compromise for everyone involved with the program and for youth that want to become involved. The program is designed for kids anyway, so I don’t see a problem with them continuing to exclude openly gay adults in the program. I don’t doubt that within a few years the membership requirements will be updated again to allow gay adults to join.
There are a few arguments that people have against the decision. The first one being that any gay youth would not be “morally straight.” The problem I have with this argument is the following: being “morally straight” means that the scouts (and adults) involved with scouting have good morals and do the right thing, that they’re on the straight path. Being a gay youth does not mean that they don’t have any morals. The people who use this argument are mixing morality with sexual orientation, which is a disservice to the young men who want to join the program.
One of the other arguments that the New York Times article brought up was about the Boy Scouts of America being a Christian-based organization and that this goes against those principles. While this is a widely debated topic among churches and Christians, the basic principle that people leave out of the debate is that Jesus ministered to the social outcasts of His time: the sinners, the lepers, the disabled, the tax collectors, etc. God loves every one of us, exactly how we are, exactly how He created us. Instead of pushing gay youth away, the Boy Scouts are now embracing their Christian principles to more accurately reflect the love of Christ Jesus.
Overall, there will be a lot of growing pains within the Boy Scouts as they transition into this controversial arena. There will be lots of people who leave the program simply because gay youth are allowed to join (honestly, gay youth are already involved with the program. They simply aren’t open about their attractions). There will be an influx of new scouts joining (or re-joining if they had been asked to leave the program previously).
I also fully expect that some troops will integrate gay youth with non-gay youth, some troops will split into multiple troops, brand new troops will spring up (some of these being all gay youth and some of them being all non-gay youth).
The biggest challenge that the Boy Scouts now has is making sure that current adult leadership on a council and troop level are neutral with their approach to this. This is a sensitive topic to begin with and it would not do the BSA any good to have some of their scoutmasters denouncing the policy and influencing scouts with a negative approach.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Leave a comment below and please keep any debate civil.
- BSA membership resolution passes with more than 60 percent of vote (scoutingmagazine.org)