The Boy Scouts of America’s executive board this week chickened out of a vote on easing its anti-gay policies because of "the complexity of this issue." Complexity? It couldn’t be simpler. The BSA should go beyond its proposed half-measure of allowing sponsors of local troops to decide whether to welcome gay scouts and scout leaders, and ban any discrimination against gays. The world has changed and the Scouts must change with it.
The policy change that the BSA will apparently wrestle with until May is a shameful cop-out. By proposing it will no longer "dictate" anti-gay policies to local troops but will allow them to determine their own policies on gays, the BSA bigwigs hope to take the heat off themselves and transfer it down the ladder. Not exactly a ringing declaration against discrimination.
An interview by the Eagle’s Adam Poulisse with David Kruse, the scout executive of Boys Scouts of America Western Massachusetts Council (Feb. 2) indicates that the local branch takes a "don’t ask, don’t tell" approach in which no one will be kicked out for being gay but no one will be welcomed for being gay either. The local council’s statement on membership asserts that "Promoting sexual behavior or orientation...is inappropriate," which perpetuates distasteful myths of aggressive gays "recruiting" straights to their cause. It is in need of a reality-based updating.
There are undoubtedly many reasons why the Boy Scouts, in particularly its large Cub Scouts division, has been losing membership for years, but a bigoted policy that offends parents and chases away sponsors is certainly one of them. The Pentagon has abandoned "don’t ask, don’t tell," gay marriage is increasingly accepted and no longer a divisive political issue and Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to decry discrimination against gays in an Inaugural Address. America is leaving the Boy Scouts of America and their retrograde attitudes behind.