Op-ed: Boy Scouts Must Complete the Inclusion Process to Remain Relevant
Thirteen years ago, the United States Supreme Court answered one of two questions that had been brought before the American people:
Does the Boy Scouts of America have the right to discriminate against gay people?
More importantly, is it right for the Boy Scouts of America to discriminate against gay people?
The Supreme Court only has the capacity to answer the first question, and in 2000 it did so with a 5-4 decision saying that yes, the BSA does have the right to discriminate against gay people.
It's taken a while for America to respond to the other question, but over the past decade-plus and especially over the last year, we have given the BSA the answer, a resounding no.
The BSA took a step toward admitting this Thursday, when it voted to partially repeal its ban on participation by gay people. Gay scouts can now join the organization or stay with it after they've come out. Until they turn 18, that is, because the ban on participation by gay adults is still in place.
Almost 2 million people have signed various petitions, mostly on Change.org, opposing the ban on participation by gay teens and parents alike. Faith leaders from the United Church of Christ and the Lutheran Church (which sponsor about 5,000 troops between them) have urged a thorough end to the ban. The BSA's own report on a survey it has conducted said that 28 out of 30 current and prospective corporate sponsors oppose the bans on gay scouts and leaders. This isn't just support for gay inclusion, this is overwhelming support for gay inclusion.
Even though the proposal that passed was put forth by the BSA itself, Boy Scout executives must realize that their discriminatory ban on gay parents and volunteers is no longer sustainable, nor is it in step with the values of the country the BSA is supposed to represent.
Today's America is one that values its LGBT families as much as any of its other families. It's one in which three quarters of citizens now know someone who's gay or lesbian and no longer see LGBT equality as an abstract concept. It's an America in which six states have been able to confirm the freedom to marry in the span of the past seven months. And it's one in which the antiquated discriminatory rules of the Boy Scouts of America simply do not belong.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released earlier this month shows that a majority of Americans believe gay parents, volunteers, and young men who are over the age of 18 should be able to participate in Scouting.
What's clear is that Americans have already decided that though the BSA may have the right to discriminate against some gay people, that doesn't make it right to discriminate against any. And they won't stand for it.
The Boy Scouts of America has produced some of this country's most influential figures, from Gerald Ford, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton to Bill Gates, Walter Cronkite, and Steven Spielberg. If BSA officials want to truly prepare the boys who will become the leaders of tomorrow — or even, frankly , if the organization hopes to survive the demands of a rapidly evolving culture, which is quickly rendering it irrelevant — then they must listen to the growing number of people calling for equality in scouting.
The BSA claims to be grooming young men to be leaders of the future. But these young men are being taught to discriminate — in many cases, against their own older siblings or their friends' families. This is not leadership, and it will have no place in the future.
Antigay discrimination of any kind is already unacceptable in today's America, and it will be even more so in tomorrow's.
DAVE MONTEZ is GLAAD's acting president and EVAN WOLFSON is the lawyer who argued Boy Scouts of America vs. James Dale before the Supreme Court in 2000.