Boy Scouts of America officials are going to call for an end to the organization's ban on gay scouts but recommend continuing to prohibit gay adults from serving as troop leaders.
The resolution still must be voted on by the organization's national council in May, but if it is approved, "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone," BSA spokesman Deron Smith told the Reuters news service. But it would leave in place the ban on openly gay adult leaders, the Associated Press notes. The proposed policy was published on the BSA leadership blog today, and an accompanying statement confirms that it "would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders."
The group had earlier indicated it might adopt a policy of allowing each individual troop to set its own policy on admitting LGBT scouts and leaders. The proposal unveiled today came after several months of research and surveys, BSA officials said.
LGBT activists expressed disappointment with the BSA's move. "One year after sending a letter ousting me as my son's leader, the Boy Scouts are once again forcing me to look my children in the eyes and tell them that our family isn't good enough," said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who is lesbian, in a statement released through GLAAD. "My heart goes out to the young adults in Scouting who would be able to continue as scouts if this is passed, but then be thrown out when they reach the age to become leaders."
Added Rich Ferraro, GLAAD's vice president of communications: "Yet again, the Boy Scouts of America has failed its members, corporate sponsors, donors and the millions of Americans who agree that the time to end discrimination in Scouting is now. By refusing to consider an end to its ban on gay and lesbian parents, the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy. We're living in a culture where, until every parent and young person have the same opportunity to serve, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations."
Rick Jacobs, president of the progressive group Courage Campaign, released a statement praising the recommendation to admit gay scouts but said the proposal does not go far enough: "Despite the efforts of a vocal minority, from politics to business to culture, we are seeing a rapid and historic shift towards equality for all. The Boy Scouts are now beginning to catching up with this reality. This is yet another step in the right direction towards ending discrimination against LGBT youth across this country. Yet the Boy Scouts need to go further and end all discrimination within their organization. Discrimination and hatred have no place in a country founded on the principles of liberty, justice, and equality."
Some conservative activists and commentators have repeatedly painted gay adults as a danger to young people, despite all research to the contrary. See some of their statements here. A history of the debate over gays in scouting is here.
The BSA will submit the proposal to its 1,400-member national council the week of May 20, when the council gathers for its annual meeting in Texas. And some local councils are lining up in support of the policy change, including the BSA Northeast Illinois Council, which covers northern suburbs of Chicago, the Windy City Timesreports.
Here's a statement released by the BSA:
In February, the Boy Scouts of America embarked on the most comprehensive listening exercise in its history to consider the impact of potential changes to its membership standards policy on the organization and gather perspectives from inside and outside of the Scouting family. 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.
Scouting's review confirmed that this issue remains among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today. Even with the wide range of input, it is extremely difficult to accurately quantify the potential impact of maintaining or changing the current policy. While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community, and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting.
For this reason, the Executive Committee, on behalf of the National Executive Board, wrote a resolution for consideration that would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone and would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America. The proposed 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.
The voting members will take action on the resolution during the Boy Scouts of America1s National Annual Meeting next month.
America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation's children. Throughout this process, we work to stay focused on that which unites us