Boy Scouts of America needs to drop ban on gay leaders as well as gay scouts
Published 4:23 pm, Wednesday, May 29, 2013
The Boy Scouts of America has acted appropriately -- if belatedly -- in lifting its longtime ban on openly gay scouts.
Unfortunately, the organization has continued its ban on gay scout leaders, which perpetuates the myth there is something wrong with being gay and which guarantees continued turmoil within the BSA and across the country until that portion of the policy is also reversed.
The Boy Scouts of America has long been behind the curve in terms of tolerance in a society that increasingly recognizes and embraces diversity.
The century-old organization's decision last week to change its policy excluding gay scouts, however, was a welcome step in the right direction. Shamefully late, but welcome nonetheless.
For decades, gay boys of scouting age faced a choice -- hide who they were or be true to themselves and forfeit the opportunity to take advantage of the many learning experiences scouting has to offer.
Whichever choice they made, the message sent out by the Boy Scouts of America was clear: There is something wrong with being gay.
When the new policy becomes effective Jan. 1, gay boys will no longer need to make that painful, difficult choice.
When the calendar turns to 2014, openly gay boys will be welcomed -- officially, at least -- in scout troops across the country.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for openly gay scout leaders. As the result of a fiercely contested compromise within the BSA, gay leaders need not apply.
That compromise represents just a partial solution and sends a confusing, hypocritical message to gay boys and to the country at large: In the eyes of the Boy Scouts of America, gay youths are acceptable, but gay adults are not.
And what lesson do the scouts learn from that message? That there is still something wrong with being gay.
This effort by the BSA to walk a fine line has created a storm of protest from people on both sides of the fence.
Those who want the ban lifted completely are unhappy that gay leaders will still be barred; those who want to maintain the restrictions are upset the ban on gay scouts will soon be ended.
The failure of the BSA to take an enlightened position and lift the gay ban entirely reveals a continuing lack of openmindedness and tolerance within the organization, not to mention a split personality.
The scouting hierarchy should open its eyes to the real world, in which there are openly gay teachers, coaches and mentors of all sorts, and in which gay rights are being expanded every day.
Scouting is a big part of the social fabric in the communities in the Greater New Milford area, a wonderful endeavor in which boys are taught valuable life lessons.
And it is good news indeed openly gay youths will soon be able to avail themselves of that experience.
But that is not enough.
It is critical the Boy Scouts of America take another look at its archaic policy, drop the ban on gay scout leaders and move its organization into the 21st century.