Boy Scouts Delay Decision About Gay Leaders

The Boy Scouts walked to the edge of the cliff and backed off.

They delayed a decision about whether or not to allow gay scout leaders and gay scouts until May. This non-decision appears to be in response to concern from the organizations’ rank and file.

While opponents of the change say that it would lead to religious parents taking their sons out of the Boy Scouts, proponents claim that allowing gay scout leaders and gay scouts would revitalize the organization.

Both groups agree that membership in the Boy Scouts of America has declined in recent years.

In my opinion, neither side of this argument is acknowledging the impact of the rise of broken families, single parents and families where both parents work, often at more than one job.

I had children who were Boy Scouts. It takes a lot of time to participate, including a large investment of time on the part of parents. I can see how fatherless families would find it difficult to participate fully, since there are quite a number of activities that involve sons and their dads.

I doubt that the Scouts’ refusal to allow gay scout leaders has anything to do with falling numbers of new Scouts. I think the falling number of Scouts is mostly a reflection of the disintegration of the family and the economy, combined.

A New York Times article discussion today’s events says in part:

IRVING, Tex. — The Boy Scouts of America, which reconfirmed last summer its policy banning openly gay people from participation, then said last week it was reconsidering the ban, said on Wednesday that it would postpone a decision once more, until May, as talk of gays in the ranks has roiled a storied organization that carries deep emotional connection and nostalgia for millions of Americans.

An end to the national ban on gays, which the United States Supreme Court said in 2000 was legal free speech by a private organization, would create a huge new moment of risk, experimentation and change people on both sides of the issue said. The proposal floated last week would allow local scouting units to decide membership rules for themselves.

The proposed change created multiple fracture lines of its own. Some supporters of the ban said they feared a wave of departures by conservative church-sponsored troops, while supporters of the change said that scouting, with fewer boys every year donning the tan uniform to work for merit badges, would be revitalized. Scout leaders who favored a complete about-face on gays — prohibiting discrimination everywhere in the organization — said the compromise position by the Executive Board would still leave scouting open to accusations of homophobia by its critics, since discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation would still be allowed locally. (Read more here.)

President Obama Supports Boy Scouts of America Allowing Gay Scout Leaders

President Barack Obama, official portrait

President Obama gave his support to recent moves by the Boys Scouts of America to end its policy of not allowing gay Scout leaders or Scouts in an interview today. He also said that he will not hesitate to send women into combat.

Boy Scouts of America won a United States Supreme Court case (Boy Scouts of America vs Dal) in 2000. The Court held that a Constitutional Right to Freedom of Association allowed exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.”

BSA has come under criticism since then for taking the position that Scout leaders and Scouts could not be gay. The current discussion is whether or not the Boy Scouts should change this position to allow local affiliates to decide this matter for themselves.

The Reuters article describing President Obama’s comments on the matter says in part:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Sunday encouraged the Boy Scouts of Americato end its ban on gay members and leaders, days before the group is expected to vote on the controversial and long-standing rule.

In an interview with CBS, anchor Scott Pelley asked the president if he believed scouting should be open to gays.

“Yes,” Obama said simply.

… The BSA national executive board is expected to vote Wednesday, the last day of a three-day meeting, on whether to lift the ban it had reaffirmed just last year.

The organization said last month it was considering ending its national ban on gay youth and adult members and leaving policies on sexual orientation to its local organizations.

Since coming into office, Obama has presided over several moves to reduce discrimination against gays, including ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevented gay men and women from serving openly in the military.

He also stopped his administration from defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbade gay married couples from obtaining the same benefits that heterosexual couples receive.

Obama also voiced his support for gay rights during his high profile second Inaugural address last month.

Separately on Sunday, Obama said he would have no hesitation sending women into combat after the Pentagon lifted its long-time ban last month. (Read more here.)


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