This year New York City's famed Pride parade will include a bit more khaki than ever before, as a contingent of openly gay and allied Boy Scouts, Eagle Scouts, and volunteers serve as the color guard for the 44th Annual NYC Pride March, coming up Sunday.
Active scouts, alumni, volunteers, and allies connected with the Brooklyn chapter of advocacy group Scouts for Equality will present the American flag during the national anthem at the Pride March's opening ceremonies, then will march through Manhattan to celebrate progress in LGBT rights and call for an end to the Boy Scouts of America's decades-old policy barring openly gay adults from serving any role in the organization.
“We are grateful for this invitation from NYC Pride, and we are honored and humbled to provide this patriotic service to the LGBT community of New York,” said Stacey Sarnicola, Brooklyn chapter lead of Scouts for Equality in a statement published by GLAAD Monday. “Since 1978, the BSA has held a policy that excluded gay youth and parents. While the BSA voted last year to end the policy barring gay youth from participation, it has made no change in its membership policy regarding adults. The Greater New York Councils' inclusive policy is what gave me permission to allow my son to join the Boy Scouts. It's what gives us permission to march, and it gives us hope for a BSA for all in the near future."
Although the Boy Scouts of America's official policy bars the participation of openly gay adults as scouts, troop leaders, or volunteers, the agency overseeing New York City's program says it has always accepted those who wanted to become scouts, regardless of their age or orientation. The Greater New York Councils, which oversees an estimated 150,000 scouts and their families, has endorsed a comprehensive nondiscrimination policy — calling its own refusal to take into consideration a scout's sexual orientation "the right, moral, forward-looking policy for the BSA [to adopt] nationwide."
Organizers for the annual celebration were keen to bring in the Scouts as a simultaneous symbol of the progress made — and the work yet to be done.
"NYC Pride warmly welcomes Scouts for Equality to the route as our 2014 NYC Pride March Color Guard," said NYC Pride March director Dave Studinski. "Our 2014 theme is 'We Have Won When We're One,' and this message resonates well with Scouts for Equality's mission. From their participation in our step-off ceremony through the moment they pass the historic Stonewall Inn, may the scouts' joint display of our nation's colors and the rainbow flag remind us all that the LGBT movement seeks not tolerance, but acceptance as equals."
GLAAD notes that among those carrying flags along Manhattan's Fifth Avenue will be 87-year-old David Knapp, who was forced out of the Boy Scouts of America in 1993 — after 55 years with the organization — when leadership learned that he was gay. Uniformed scouts and allies will also carry flags, as will former Salt Lake City scoutmaster Peter Brownstein, who was removed from his position as scoutmaster after he and his son, an Eagle Scout, delivered pizzas to the same-sex couples waiting to be legally married during the state's two-week period where such unions were permitted.