Whether homosexual men may join the Boy Scouts is not an issue. Given the size of the organization, it’s difficult to fathom that the organization was able to spot and ban every homosexual from membership. But similar to the debate of the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, the issue is whether the organization will publicly declare that its mission statement will not inhibit a local troop’s decision to extend membership to homosexual men. Considering the many years advocating that homosexual and leadership in scouting are inappropriate, its current desire to reconsider may simply be a move to alleviate a distraction.
Since at least 1978, the Boy Scouts’ Executive Committee’s position with regard to homosexuality has been akin to the following:
“The Boy Scouts of America is a private, membership organization and leadership therein is a privilege and not a right. We do not believe that homosexuality and leadership in Scouting are appropriate. We will continue to select only those who in our judgment meet our standards and qualifications for leadership.”
Public scrutiny of this position peaked when James Dale sued the Boy Scouts of America for revoking his adult membership after discovering he was homosexual and an advocate for gay rights. The Supreme Court, in 2000, permitted the organization’s decision to revoke his membership holding that the Boy Scouts’ First Amendment right to exclude individuals living a lifestyle inconsistent with its principles (freedom of expressive association) cannot be trumped by a government’s interest in prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination.
On February 6, 2013, the Boy Scouts postponed issuing a decision to change its policy regarding homosexual membership. In a statement e-mailed to reporters, the organization provided the following:
“[After] an outpouring of feedback from the American public… reinforce[ing] how deeply people care about scouting and how passionate they are about the organization… [and] 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.”
Since the majority of local troops are sponsored by churches, many opponents of the policy change claim that it is a departure of conservative values. Proponents of the change assert that it would open membership to more young men. In an interview after the Supreme Court’s decision, James Dale stated:
“The Boy Scouts were founded in England roughly 100 years ago, and England dropped their policy of banning gays about four or five years ago to make themselves relevant to the next generation of youth. The Boy Scouts of America have made a foothold in bigotry and discrimination and they are really rendering themselves obsolete for today’s youth. That’s a sad thing because there was so much potential.”
What do you think?