The 2013 National Annual Meeting for the Boy Scouts will take place on May 22 – 24 in Grapevine, Texas. The national Boy Scouts of America (BSA) leadership will vote on a proposed resolution to change membership standards. The change would lift a longstanding ban on gay youth, but would not lift the ban on gay adult leaders. Although this is a step in the right direction, the new policy does not go far enough. I will summarize some constructive ways to keep up the pressure on the Boy Scouts until they adopt a full nondiscrimination policy for everyone.
To learn more about the process that the national organization is following to resolve this issue, visit the membership standards page. You can write to the National BSA here. Let them know that it is unacceptable to disqualify an adult leader just because of sexual orientation. You can also comment on the BSA’s Facebook page and sign the petition to reinstate a Cub Scout leader (Jennifer Tyrrell), who was removed for being Gay.
Keep in mind that the National BSA does not represent the views of local councils and troops. Many of these local organizations have taken a stand against the national policy. The Boston Minuteman Council’s initiative to help inner city youth, called Scoutreach, has been so successful that the Boston Globe ran a front page article and WBZ produced a short television spot. A new program was recently launched called “Let’s Go Camping” to help these same youth experience the outdoors. This new program clearly states a non-discrimination policy that differs from the national policy:
Affiliated with Boston Minuteman Council, Boy Scouts of America, Let’s Go Camping supports BMC’s full non-discrimination policy including sexual orientation. We believe that everybody should be able to enjoy the outdoors.
After the recent events in Boston, this effort to expand youth programs is welcome. You can write to Boston Minuteman Council here. Let them know that you appreciate the stand they have taken to oppose the National BSA policy. In summary they have said:
We reaffirm our statement of non-discrimination. We believe that all people should at all times be treated in accordance with the Scout Oath and Scout Law. We strongly oppose treating anyone in any way that is contrary to the Scout Oath and Scout Law, because of sexual orientation or for any other reason.
The Boston Minuteman Council is responsible for the Scouting program in Boston, Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Brookline, Burlington, Cambridge, Carlisle, Chelsea, Concord, Dedham, Dover, Everett, Hanscom AFB, Lexington, Lincoln, North Reading, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Milton, Needham, Quincy, Reading, Revere, Somerville, Stoneham, Wakefield, Waltham, Watertown, Westwood, Winchester and Woburn. The full text of their Nondiscrimination policy is here. You can also comment on the BMC’s Facebook page.
To my knowledge, the national BSA organization has not interfered with the Boston Minuteman Council, the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN-based Northern Star Council, or any other council that has taken a stand against discrimination. Nevertheless, challenging the National BSA policy carries risks, and councils that do this deserve support.
The local troops in your town may have taken a stand in support of a full nondiscrimination policy. Let them know that you appreciate their efforts to push back against national. Support the youth in these troops. Even BSA national acknowledges that younger parents and teens tend to oppose the national policy. Here in Bedford, MA, there are many Scouts (at least four and perhaps seven or more) that will get their Eagle this year. Of these Scouts, five have a family tie to the First Parish in Bedford, Unitarian Universalist, and I’m proud to say that my youngest son is among them. These Scouts are the agents of change for the future. We should celebrate their achievement and let them have their day in the sun.
If you’re interested in learning more about how my thinking has evolved on this topic, you can read my series of three earlier posts on this blog (Boy Scouts: Your Star is Rising; Motivation for “Healing our Institutions (Starting with the Boy Scouts)”; Healing our Institutions (Starting with the Boy Scouts)).