Idaho Sheriff Ben Wolfinger, of Kootenai County, says (via Think Progress) that the Boy Scouts are breaking the law because sodomy is illegal. And so it just wouldn’t be right for his department to continue sponsoring a Boy Scout troop. He doesn’t say that there have been problems of sodomy to this point, and such a problem would seem highly unlikely; plus, one would hope that had such activities among the young scouts been happening, the good sheriff and his deputies, or whoever, would have put a quick stop to it. But Sheriff Wolfinger is worried now, and so threatening to pull the department’s sponsorship, because last week the BSA’s national council voted to admit “openly gay” boys, saying
… ‘[i]t would be inappropriate for the sheriff’s office to sponsor an organization that is promoting a lifestyle that is in violation of state law.’ Just in case there was any ambiguity regarding what ‘lifestyle’ Wolfinger was referring to, he also sent a copy of an anti-sodomy statute that is still on the books in Idaho to an official for the Boy Scouts.
Maybe Wolfinger saw the tweet from Bryan Fischer, regarding the BSA vote: “BSA now stands for Boy Sodomizers of America, because that’s what will happen. Mark my words.”
The problem for Wolfinger — or rather, one of what appear to be several problems — is that the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas “that non-commercial sexual activity between consenting adults cannot be criminalized under the Constitution.” That was in 2003.
Idaho isn’t alone in keeping sodomy laws on the state books, but those laws are unconstitutional. It doesn’t appear, at least, that Sheriff Wolfinger is aware of the 2003 ruling. Or maybe he’s one of those people who think state laws supersede federals laws, at least when you don’t like what the federal law says.
The Coeur d’Alene Press provides additional details.
‘I have talked with Chris Peterson about this and sent him a copy of the law,’ Wolfinger said.
Peterson, who works in the Hayden office of the Inland Northwest Council of Boy Scouts, could not be reached for comment on Friday, and Tim McCandless, CEO of the Inland Northwest Council, said he wanted to talk with the sheriff before commenting specifically to his concerns.
‘I would encourage you to read the resolution that was passed, however.’ McCandless said. ‘Sodomy is not allowed in scouting and is not an issue in this discussion.’ …
In the resolution that was passed, it states: ‘Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting” … .
One of the problems Wolfinger apparently has is what so many anti-LGBT people have: the hear “gay” and immediately think “sex.” That’s along with the fact that it seems he didn’t actually read the resolution, and that he’s sending copies of a law that is unconstitutional. That doesn’t seem in keeping with someone sworn to uphold the actual laws.
Finally, and because I’ve seen several comments made about the words of one person, Sheriff Wolfinger, used to dismiss the entire state of Idaho as hopelessly backward, I think it’s important to take notice of the work of Idaho LGBTs and allies, and to remember, and support, those gay Boy Scouts in Idaho.
Via the Boise LGBT Community Center:
December 4, 2012, the Boise City Council voted for the unanimous passage of a citywide LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013: ‘prohibiting discriminatory acts in housing, employment and public accommodations based upon sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.’
From the Pride Foundation, April 2, 2013:
Moscow, Idaho Adopts Non-Discrimination Ordinance
On Monday night in Moscow, the city council unanimously passed a citywide non-discrimination ordinance that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in housing, employment, and public accommodations. …
Moscow follows the lead of Sandpoint, Boise, and Ketchum in extending protections to its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer citizens, and city leaders are being applauded for their actions.
Also via the Pride Foundation, March 20, 2013:
Idaho legislators hear Human Rights Act amendment presentation
On March 20, Idaho legislators heard a public presentation from supporters of an amendment to the Idaho Human Rights Act to include the words ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity or expression.’
No doubt Sheriff Wolfinger has supporters. No doubt Idaho is one of the Red states. But it’s just as certain there are people in Idaho, LGBTQ and allies, who are making progress, even when they have to deal with people who equate “gay” with “sodomy.”