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Queer Talk: Boy Scouts Delay Decision on Gay Scouts and Leaders


Evolving, as a generalization, isn’t a fast or easy process. The Boy Scouts evolving process on allowing gay boys and men to be scouts and leaders illustrates that nicely. In the latest round, after saying they were going to consider changing from the top-down policy of what amounts to “no gays allowed” to a half-way-pass-the-buck policy that made moved the decision to local chapters; and after receiving large and loud feedback from both sides of the argument — that is, pro and anti gay — today they announced they’re postponing the decision until, apparently, May.

At The Advocate:

Today’s board meeting was touted by the group itself as a potential turning point in the decades-long stalemate. On the table was a proposal to remove the national organization’s ban while instead allowing local troops to decide for themselves.

‘After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,’ the executive board announced in a statement today. The group said the board would ‘further engage’ the ranks of the Scouts before 1,400 voting members convene at its national annual meeting in May.

The national BSA originally encouraged the public to offer feedback on its proposal to repeal the ban. And it may have gotten more than expected, quickly announcing it would stop taking phone calls.

Among others who voiced the “keep the policy as is” perspective are Rick Perry, Tony Perkins and Rick Santorum. Among those supporting the appeal is President Obama, someone who knows a bit about public evolving on LGBT “issues.”

After activists on Monday delivered 1.4 million signatures on a petition calling for an end to the ban, BSA spokesman Deron Smith acknowledged the immense pressure it is under from all sides.

One example of the actions on the further-Right is in the video below, in which, among other things, homosexuality is equated with pedophilia.

The Advocate has a very helpful timeline related to the BSA and their “gay” policy, beginning 1990:

Forced Out

James Dale, a New Jersey college student and Eagle Scout who had been invited to become an assistant scoutmaster, is forced out of the Boy Scouts after officials learn through a newspaper article that he is gay.

I always wonder when things like this happen — when an individual has been recognized as competent and worthy of, in this case, being asked to be an assistant scoutmaster — if those who made that assessment, before knowing the individual is gay and thus unworthy … do the “assessors” ever have questions about themselves, and their abilities and competence and worthiness?

Anyway, on to May, when we’ll find out if that darn controversial gay can will be kicked further down the straight road.

(Boy Scout Logo via BSA)

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2 Responses to Queer Talk: Boy Scouts Delay Decision on Gay Scouts and Leaders

  1. spincitysd February 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    Looks like the dodge of letting the local councils take the hit did not work. The scouts are in a hard, hard place. For the most part their leadership and grass roots support comes from evangelicals. Organizations like the Southern Baptist Convention and other conservative to reactionary religious groups make up the warp and woof of scouting.

    On the other hand Scouting is also beholden to big business who support the BSA for the halo effect of the organization. Scouting is also beholden to local and federal government for support as well.

    With the tectonic shift ongoing in public attitudes toward Gays, Scouting is desperately trying to find a middle ground between the two opposing camps. If it continues to discriminate against Gays it looses Corporate support, the support of many local governments (one example being San Diego, California that kicked the Scouts out of some very prime public park real estate), and the unwashed masses. But on the other hand if it follows the now clear path to liberation it looses its grass roots support in many communities. It looses much of its organizational muscle.

    The Scouts know what will happen if they choose a Gay friendly policy. Many “Good Christian People” will disert the Scouts and form their own Church supported Scout troop. Having all these MegaChurch based scouts will dilute the BSA brand and be a public relations nightmare. The BSA does not want to deal with the bad press of some local MegaChurch based scouting troop doing something awful.

    My guess is that the Scouts are going to have to follow the money. Without Corporate support Scouting becomes a shadow of its former self. It also becomes a prisoner of the WingNut world, becoming less and less relevant to the general public as time goes by. More to the point it becomes less relevant to Civil Society and the cultural indoctrination of the Masses. To survive Scouting is going to have the ride the wave of Gay liberation. To survive Scouting must remain in very center of public opinion.


    In one way Prop eight was a blessing in disguise. Loosing in California really woke up the LBGT community. It reminded the LBGT community and its supporters that the path to liberation is never easy. It put an end to the self-satisfaction and overconfidence that many in the Gay Liberation movement suffered from. It got Gays out and activated. Nothing like getting slapped in the face in the Bluest state in the Union to motivate people to get out of their comfort zone. Prop 8 got people mad and got them engaged. It got people engaged not only politically but personally. Prop 8 reenforced the need for LBGTs to engage on a personal level, as fathers, sons, mothers,daughters, sisters, brothers, nephews, nieces, coworkers, friends and neighbors. It is that personal touch, that personal engagement, that has caused the pivot in attitudes. At the time of Prop 8 the pro vs anti components were roughly equal. Today, nationwide, it is not even close as the pro side is rushing toward a near 60% super-majority. It is that shift that has all sorts of political evolution to occur.

    • Joyce Arnold February 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and analysis. This is really helpful.

      The BSA, as you say, is torn between a changing society and the unchanging, digging in their heels group from whom much of their troop sponsorship comes.A disaplay of leadership would be to go with the change, don’t get even further behind. But the “stand for family values” pressure will continue to be intense.

      I think you’re right to point to Prop 8 as one of those pivotal moments in the LGBT equality movement. Or for that matter, in the communities, not just the activists of the communities. Along with so many states enacting mini-DOMAs and amending state contitutions to mandate “one man, one woman” only marriages … it became very clear that a great deal more work, and by more people, was required. We’re making good progress, and I think that will continue. But there’s still a lot of work ahead of us — like getting rid of DOMA and enacting ENDA; like having same-sex couples included in immigration reform. The SCOTUS decisions in a few months, regarding DOMA and Prop 8, are the next potential “big” moment.

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