In what could be a major policy shift, the Boy Scouts of America have begun serious discussions about dropping their national ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders. The Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy has been a part of the organization for decades and was reaffirmed only seven months ago despite disagreement among board members. However, there has been growing discontent and pressure from local boy scout chapters and grassroots organizations that urge the BSA to modernize and become more inclusive.
The new policy, which will be voted on by the national board next week, will leave the decision of allowing gay members up to local Scout governing boards. Says BSA spokesman Deron Smith, "The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue...The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization's mission, principles or religious beliefs."
A petition demanding that the BSA begin allowing gay members has garnered over 1.2 million signatures on Change.org and the recent case of Ryan Andresen, an 18-year-old model student who was rejected from the Eagle Scouts for being openly gay, has also kicked up its fair share of controversy.
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation spokesman Rich Ferraro commented on the possible policy shift, calling it an important "first step." He says, "The Girl Scouts, 4H Clubs and the U.S. military are fully inclusive, and that's what we need from the Boy Scouts of America. Until then there will be young people out there who are harmed by this."
But they have a tradition of quaint bigotry to uphold! Oh, well. Everyone's gotta move forward. Even you, Boy Scouts.
Boy Scouts may soon welcome gay youths, leaders [USA Today]