The Truth About Today's New Boy Scouts Proposal

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April 19, 2013
Legal Director Jon W. Davidson

Compromise can sometimes be a good thing, but being “morally compromised” is not. And the latest proposal by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America should be recognized as one that continues to compromise the moral principles of the Scout Law.

The proposal unveiled today—which is set to be voted on by a body of 1,400 selected Boy Scout members next month—would provide that no youth may be denied membership in the organization “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” but would maintain the organization’s practice and policy of denying membership to adults “who are open or avowed homosexuals.”

This may seem like a step in the right direction that would at least prevent some boys involved in the Boy Scouts from being thrown out because of their sexual orientation, but the reality is more complicated. Under this proposal:

  • Youth involved in scouting—even those who achieve the distinction of Eagle Scout—will be kicked out at the age of 18 if they are openly gay. How is that loyal?
  • Youth who come to understand that they are gay will realize that they risk being drummed out of the Boy Scouts upon reaching adulthood if they let others know their sexual orientation. They will therefore be pressured to live in the closet, in fear of disclosure of who they are—something research has confirmed to be harmful to psychological and physical health. How is that kind?
  • Gay youth and youth with lesbian and gay family members will continue to receive the message that the Boy Scouts thinks there is something the matter with being gay because of the organization’s ongoing exclusion of openly gay adults. How is that helpful?
  • The Boy Scouts of America proclaims in today’s proposal that it “does not have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation,” but by maintaining a discriminatory policy of excluding gay adults, of course it does. How can an organization that engages in such doublespeak be trustworthy?

Those who will vote on this proposal need to understand that it violates the Scout Oath’s command to be morally straight. While the “compromise” could permit some youth to continue to be involved in Scouting, it would do so by telling them that, if they are openly gay, their time in the Boy Scouts will be limited, and that they would be better off hiding their sexual orientation in an organization that continues to send the damaging message—notwithstanding its hypocritical protestations to the contrary—that being gay is bad.

In Lambda Legal’s Boy Scouts of America v. Dale case, the Supreme Court held that the Boy Scouts have a constitutional right to choose the leaders they want. But having a right and doing what is right are not necessarily the same thing. What is right here is for the Boy Scouts of America to end its discriminatory policy, period.

People should not be fooled by this supposed half a loaf, which in practice would give gay youth and youth with lesbian and gay family members some pretty stale crumbs.