Boy Scouts to Go Halfway on Equality

The Boy Scouts of America appear to be ready to go halfway toward equality, lifting the ban on openly gay teens joining the group but still forbidding gay adults from acting as scout leaders. The matter still has to be voted on by the BSA board:

The Boy Scouts of America would no longer deny membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation but would maintain its ban on openly gay adult leaders under a proposal it is considering, the group said Friday.

The organization’s executive committee made the proposal, which is expected to be presented to the Boy Scouts’ voting members at its May meeting in Dallas. If the policy is approved, it will take effect January 1.

“If approved, the resolution would mean that ‘no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.’ The BSA will maintain the current membership policy for all adults,” Boy Scouts public relations director Deron Smith said.

Now how about lifting the ban on atheists too?

40 comments on this post.
  1. slc1:

    This is actually a stupid policy. What it does is encourage gay adults who want to be scout leaders to stay in the closet so the BSA won’t know who they are and hence can’t keep an eye on them. If they are out of the closet, then the BSA can keep an eye on them and be alert to hanky panky on their part.

  2. Modusoperandi:

    That’s a bit like a school that accepts you as a student, but won’t let you come back to teach.

  3. John Pieret:

    Camel’s nose …

    Besides, imagine all the wingnut heads exploding and non-wingnuts wondering why they hate kids who happen to be gay. It was that kind of rabid reaction (that we can expect again) that has resulted in the stunningly fast change of views in this country concerning marriage equality and LGBT people in general. In that regard the wingnut are their own worst enimies.

  4. rory:

    I almost find this more upsetting than the current state of affairs. If they’re willing to accept gay Scouts then obviously sexual orientation isn’t the problem. If they’re still refusing to accept gay adults as troop leaders, then what’s the justification? Are they worried that a gay leader would ‘recruit’ his Scouts to homosexuality? Or that a gay leader is more likely to be a child molestor? Both notions are ridiculous and offensive.

    They can take their neckerchieves and go screw.

  5. Sastra:

    The Boy Scout play a little game with atheism. When people complain that atheists are being discriminated against the argument is that no, this is a religious organization. They encourage fulfilling a duty to God. It is no more discriminatory to exclude atheists from what amounts to a religion class than it is to exclude people who don’t want to knit from a class about knitting. Why would they even want to join?

    But of course the religion they teach is marginal. They’re not a religious organization: they’re an organization devoted to fostering virtue and good citizenship. Atheists are excluded because atheism itself is a vice and a sign of bad citizenship. And that IS unjust discrimination … because God’s existence is not an uncontroversial fact for the entire world.

    So this compromise is supposed to do what? Satisfy the people who think that homosexual pedophiles will use the Boy Scouts for a hunting ground? Or reduce homosexuality by helping boys who are in danger of going ‘gay’ experience good role models? Or something else?

  6. Trebuchet:

    @SLC1: Aren’t you falling into the old assumption that all gays are child molesters? Or at least potential molesters?

  7. rory:

    @slc1

    Slc, I don’t want to read your post in bad faith, but are you implying that a gay scout leader is more likely to engage in “hanky panky” than a straight leader, thus warranting additional scrutiny? If so, do you have any evidence to support that idea? Because otherwise it sounds like more of the same old nonsense about gay men all being pedophiles.

  8. raven:

    Atheists have to stand in line behind the gays. I always wondered how the christofascists prioritized their hates.

    From Ed’s Barna post yesterday, “post-xians are 37% of the population. It’s 48% for millennials. It should be even higher in the younger cohorts.

    They are excluding a huge and growing number of kids for no discernable reason. That being a xian or religious makes you a better person was falsified centuries ago. And just how do you force yourself or kids to believe in an invisible Sky Fairy anyway?

  9. Katherine Lorraine, Tortue du Désert avec un Coupe-Boulon:

    This is just another stupid salvo in the “gay = pedophile” attack. It’s a disgusting trope that has no basis in reality.

  10. tynk:

    @slc1

    What it does is encourage gay adults who want to be scout leaders to stay in the closet so the BSA won’t know who they are and hence can’t keep an eye on them.

    Umm, what the hell is that supposed to mean? Why would you make the assumption that someone who is gay needs to be kept an eye on? How is your position any better than the boy scouts who won’t let openly gay troop leaders because of the bullshit lies about “teh gay are molesters”?

  11. raven:

    When people complain that atheists are being discriminated against the argument is that no, this is a religious organization.

    It is supposed to be an outdoor adventure group for kids.

    There is a place for religion and always has been. They are called churches.

  12. Modusoperandi:

    And who the hell still says “hanky panky”? What’s a ninety-eight year old lady doing on the internet?! Ethel! Ethel! They’re setting up for Bridge in the games room! Maggie is looking for a rematch! Ethel to the games room!

  13. Alverant:

    @Modusoperandi
    What the BSA has forgotten is that their biggest supply of scout leaders are former scouts. When I was a scout, most of our leaders were either parents and/or scouts themselves.

    The religious requirement in the BSA is a joke. I went to the national Jamboree in 1990 and was the only one in my group who went to the religious ceremony on Sunday (just to keep up appearances). And one of the other scouts was playing literal Satanic rock loud enough so our whole camp could hear it and nothing was done. I’m glad I went though, it strengthened my opinion that being religious and being moral were two different things.

  14. slc1:

    Re Trebuchet @ #6

    No, what I’m saying is that a gay male scout leader is more likely to molest teenage boys then a straight male scout leader (remember that most boy scouts are teenagers, some as old as 16 or 17). However, any such activity is far less likely if it is known who they are.

  15. raven:

    So this compromise is supposed to do what?

    Help the officials keep their jobs.

    The BSA is losing money and support by the day. They don’t get discounts for using school buildings. Donations are down.

    Their membership has been falling for a decade or two.

    They get a lot of tax breaks, some of which have been taken away and others are in danger of going away.

    Follow the money.

  16. slc1:

    Just to make it perfectly clear so that there be no misunderstanding, I have no objection to gay boy scout leaders, teachers, or clergymen. I just want them out of the closet.

  17. Rip Steakface:

    @14

    Not at all true, since child molestation is not about gay vs. straight, but rather just pedophile vs. not. It’s a power game for them, not purely sexual. Case in point: the RCC’s child rape problem. Either gay pedophiles just flock to the RCC, or something about having that power over young boys attracts scumbags.

  18. Chiroptera:

    slc1, #16: I just want them out of the closet.

    Me too. But I want them out of the closet because in a decent society the only people who should have to live in closets are bigots.

  19. Marcus Ranum:

    I am sure there have never been any gay scout leaders, before.

  20. Katherine Lorraine, Tortue du Désert avec un Coupe-Boulon:

    @slc1:

    There is nothing right in your post.

    A) Boy Scouts begins at age 10.5 and end at age 18 (Cub Scouts are 7-10.5, Venturing is age 14-21)

    B) Gay men are not more likely to molest boys than straight men. Pedophilia and its ilk is an attraction to pre-pubescent and teenage children. Homosexual is an interest in persons of the same sex – more than likely those of your same age range. More straight men are child molesters than gay men.

  21. Trebuchet:

    @19:

    I am sure there have never been any gay scout leaders, before.

    Except mine in the mid-1960′s. He was also a high school teacher. There was no such thing as “out” in those days, of course, but it was common knowledge.

  22. tomh:

    slc1 wrote:

    what I’m saying is that a gay male scout leader is more likely to molest teenage boys then a straight male scout leader

    Based on what? The Catholic priest history?

  23. Randomfactor:

    I want them out of the closet because in a decent society the only people who should have to live in closets are bigots.

    This, x1000.

  24. doublereed:

    slc still has a point coming from the Boy Scouts more bigoted point of view. It’s bad policy even if that BS was true. I assume that’s the justification the Boy Scouts are using, right?

    Actually, I would go further and say that a closeted homosexual is far more likely to molest a boy scout than an open homosexual. It’s a question of “closet vs open” not a question of “straight vs gay.”

    I will say that this blatantly puts a timeline on the fact that the leaders will be accepted as gay as well. At maximum a year or two. If the boy scouts still exist, of course.

  25. blorf:

    There is a grain of truth in the concern about gay leaders, but just barely. The risk would be that an older teenage scout and a younger leader might get into a relationship. Mutually consensual, but dangerous due to power imbalances, age difference and the like. I do not see this as nearly enough of a risk to justify it though. The rules require multiple adults on site with the boys at all times and that should restrict the opportunities for hanky and or panky among scouts, leaders etc.

  26. anubisprime:

    raven @ 8

    Atheists have to stand in line behind the gays. I always wondered how the christofascists prioritized their hates.

    Well it seems interchangeable mostly, but they are wary of atheists cos they tend to baffle the jeebus weeper’s with a logic they can neither understand or indeed handle when they do!
    So they poke a stick at them from afar in general.
    Teh ghey’s they get to bully up close and and intimate, they can really lay into them because teh ghey have few support networks like secular law, and like any bully the theist bigoted only torture the weak and vulnerable, and they do it by lurid and incoherent spluttering about a ‘lifestyle’ they can only guess at with a stunted imagination firmly bogged down in the morass of biblical scriptural meanderings they think supports their delusion and therefore hatreds!

    Atheists they are extremely unsure about, they don’t like them, but they are frightening, but they seem to be the equivalent of the ‘victim’ they cannot intimidate, especially if they cannot burn them, and atheists appear the one’s most likely to give them a bloody nose in retaliation, they do tend steer clear personally except when the dumb in their ranks have a brain fart where they play hero for jeebus and that inevitably ends up as martyr making…

    So both they hate but one is easier to terrorize then the other.

  27. Cathy W:

    Hypothesis: someone believes that the gay boys who want to join Scouts are “just going through a phase”, and exposure to the Morally Upright lifestyle of the Boy Scouts will set at least some of them straight (pun not intended but I don’t apologize for it now that I’ve made it…), but the adults are past hope.

    Meanwhile…the first boy to get told “Here’s your Eagle Scout award, you represent the very best of what Boy Scouting is supposed to be about, sorry we have to ban you for life now” is going to start the bad PR up all over again.

  28. steve oberski:

    Boy Scouts, meet the Navigators USA.

    The Navigators USA is committed to providing a quality scouting experience that is inclusive and available to all children and families regardless of gender, race, religion, economic status, sexual orientation and social background.

    Our Moral Compass

    As a Navigator I promise to do my best to create a world free of prejudice and ignorance. To treat people of every race, creed, lifestyle and ability with dignity and respect. To strengthen my body and improve my mind to reach my full potential. To protect our planet and preserve our freedom.

    They seem to be completely un-infested by religious dogma.

    http://navigatorsusa.org/

  29. lofgren:

    Cathy @27

    someone believes that the gay boys who want to join Scouts are “just going through a phase”, and exposure to the Morally Upright lifestyle of the Boy Scouts will set at least some of them straight (pun not intended but I don’t apologize for it now that I’ve made it…), but the adults are past hope.

    This is how I interpret the policy as well. Honestly, I would view it as a step in the right direction if the BSA changed the policy so that individual troops could establish their own position towards gay kids and leaders. Not yet truly just, but at least a good solid step towards the 21st century. That way if your troop was discriminatory, you would at least have the option of starting a new troop in your area that was more welcoming, and likely over time the national organization would accept gay scouts and leaders.

    The policy that Ed describes strikes me as a tacit approval of bullying gay scouts back into the closet before they turn 18. This is a step backwards, in my opinion. Better that gay teens never be exposed to this caustic atmosphere and its shameful policies.

    Boy Scouts begins at age 10.5 and end at age 18 (Cub Scouts are 7-10.5, Venturing is age 14-21)

    Anecdotally, most of the Boy Scouts I have interacted with were post-pubescent and within the range that boys begin to become sexually active, i.e. 15-18. I find that it varies by troop, though, with a cohort of committed scouts entering the troop together and then remaining its core constituents until they graduate, when another cohort may enter or the troop may dissolve. That is to say, one troop might be predominately 17 year olds, another predominately 13 year olds. Individual troops could easily be made up of a majority of boys who are above the age of consent, or at least old enough to be sexually active without the need for coercion.

    Since the BSA appears to be treating homosexuality as a phase, it’s perfectly reasonable (from their perspective) to insulate good, upstanding straight boys from the corrupting influence of those gay adults who are beyond redemption. And slc1 is probably correct that having those gay adults out of the closet would tend to make any such relationships less likely.

    Pedophilia and its ilk is an attraction to pre-pubescent and teenage children. Homosexual is an interest in persons of the same sex

    You are aware that scout leaders can be as young as 18, right? And while I could be persuaded that considering your partner’s age above all else might be pedophilia, it is definitely not outside the norm for adults of all ages to be attracted to people younger than them. For an older person to be attracted to another person (male or female) who is as young as 16 doesn’t seem particularly sketchy or unusual to me. Sixteen year olds may not have adult brains but they do have adult (enough) bodies and urges, so in my opinion there is definitely a range of ages where a person may be both a Boy Scout and an object of sexual attraction for a neurotypical gay man.

    Any concerns about this are belied by the fact that more than 1/3 of Boy Scout leaders are WOMEN, most of them probably straight, presenting exactly the same problems as those presented by gay men. Unless of course you’re an ignorant bigot, like the BSA’s leadership apparently.

  30. lofgren:

    Any concerns about [sexual relationships between scouts and leaders] are belied by the fact that more than 1/3 of Boy Scout leaders are WOMEN, most of them probably straight, presenting exactly the same problems [or risks] as those presented by gay men. Unless of course you’re an ignorant bigot, like the BSA’s leadership apparently.

    I just wanted to quote myself and bold it, because in my opinion this puts to bed any suggestion that the BSA’s policy is due to concern about consensual relationships between scouts and leaders. It’s simply impossible to maintain that position when those poor, impressionable boys are exposed to the influences of those predatory straight women, with their sick desire to have sex with handsome, confident teenagers in their sexual prime. (Or in the case of my troop, geeky, pimpled, socially awkward teenagers who still giggle whenever a kid says he’s going to go look for more wood).

  31. blorf:

    lofgren, don’t forget to apply sexism to their position. Men are supposed to actively seek sex and women are supposed to passively receive it, so men attracted to other men are expected to try for an older teenager while women are expected to have no interest and try to fend them off. Of course that translates to “they might treat us like we treat women” when it all filters through.

  32. democommie:

    No, No and HELL, FUCKING NO!!

    You CANNOT have teh GAY boyscout leaders. Oh, why, you ask is that?

    I’ll tell you why. First you get teh GAY scouts, then teh GAY Scout leaders. Then somebody says, “Hey, let’s raise money like the Girl Scouts do; let’s sell cookies.” But, nooooooooooooooooooo, you can’t sell COOKIES, cookies are too effeminate. So, what else can you sell? Something reeking on manliness, that’s what–Boy Scout Sausages!!

  33. slc1:

    Re blorf @ #31

    Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra Lafave?

  34. lofgren:

    good point, blorf. I had initially discounted that possibility because adult women demonstrably do seek relationships with boys/young men, but now i realize i was making the all too common mistake of thinking reality was somehow relevant to the arguments of bigots.

  35. Trebuchet:

    I’d guess most of those female leaders are at the Cub level — do they still call them “Den Mothers?”

  36. lofgren:

    Most of them may be, but there are definitely female leaders at the Boy Scout level as well. More to the point, the Boy Scouts have no policy against it and actively encourage women to be involved. So I’m not sure why it would be relevant whether or not most of them are Den Mothers or not.

  37. Zugswang:

    Unfortunately, this decision has absolutely nothing to do with actual evidence, and everything to do with survey results. Basically, many current members and donors were cool with the idea of gay youth, but definitely far less cool with gay adult leaders, for whatever reason. I got the executive summary of the survey results they started sending out a couple of months ago, and these points stood out:

    All four experts were consistent in their findings and recommendations, including:
    • “The nearly universal opinion among sexual abuse authorities is that same-sex sexual interest or same-sex sexual experience, either in adults or youth, is NOT a risk factor for sexually abusing children.”
    • In regard to role modeling: “Most of the research on the effect on children of associating with
    self-identified homosexual adults has been done about homosexual parents. The clear conclusion
    from this research is that there appear to be no effects on children’s adjustment, mental health or
    sexual orientation.”

    • Of six scenarios presented in surveys to parents, teens, and members of the Scouting community, the one scenario with which overwhelming majorities of parents, teens, and members of the Scouting community strongly agree is that it would be unacceptable to deny an openly gay Scout an Eagle Scout Award solely because of his sexual orientation.

    And finally, I thought this shift in opinion was VERY interesting:

    Three years ago, parents supported the current BSA policy by a wide margin—58 percent to
    29 percent. Today, parents oppose the policy by a 45 percent to 42 percent margin.

    Society, it seems, is moving in the right direction, but at an embarrassingly slow pace.

  38. =8)-DX:

    I guess the argument up there surrounding slc1′s mention of “hanky-panky” between male gay scoutmasters and 16-17-year-old boys has some sliver of validity. It’s the same kind of validity as the importance of gender segregation in schools (to stop youngsters engaging in hanky-panky), hetero-gender-assignment of PE teachers (to make sure teach isn’t checkin’ out those opposite sex bods on track and field) and lastly toilet/shower gender segregation.

    In any teacher-student situation one should enforce checks and guidelines to minimise the risk of child abuse, irrespective of the gender or sexual preference of the children or teacher. The proper approach would be to allow not only LGBTQ teachers and scouts, but also get rid of segregation in scouts organisations altogether – why can’t girls be scouts together with boys? (And if the answer is either “because hanky panky” or “because boys and girls are different, sexism FTW!”, it’s not a valid answer).

  39. thumper1990:

    Well of course, we can’t have gay scouts with gay scout masters! They’ll be buggering each other all over the mess tent!

    /snark

  40. lofgren:

    The proper approach would be to allow not only LGBTQ teachers and scouts, but also get rid of segregation in scouts organisations altogether – why can’t girls be scouts together with boys?

    I think there is validity to gender-segregated spaces. The atmosphere is noticeably different in a male-only space than in an integrated space. Discussions and behavior that would be inappropriate or uncomfortable in integrated spaces become possible in exclusive spaces. To deny this is to deny the existence of gender identity at all, which is patently ridiculous. Boys and girls relate to each other differently (be they gay or straight), and there is no harm in providing both kinds of experiences for both children and adults. To reduce this simple observation to “sexism” is dismissive and superficial. (I suppose it could technically be called sexism, but only in the sense that we are acknowledging the existence of sexes.)

    I have direct experience to show that men and boys behave differently in the absence of women, and testimony from females that they behave differently when there are no men around. I don’t want to eliminate hanky panky – far from it! – and I think the differences between boys and girls are mostly cultural. But that doesn’t mean we can wave a magic wand and eliminate the need the for these kinds of spaces, particularly for kids in this age range. Remember that we don’t have the luxury of simply declaring boys and girls equal and that they should always treat each other the same. We have to teach these lessons to each new generation, and part of that means giving them the space to create their own identities as the pass through the various stages of development.

    Part of this is also me trying to recognize my own privilege, as well. I know that I appreciate an male-only space, but I also know that there appears to be plenty of demand from females (from feminists, non-feminists, and anti-feminists alike) for female-only spaces, for a variety of reasons. Who am I to tell them they can’t have that?

    To declare that boys and girls should never be segregated is overly simplistic. (I don’t think that gender-segregated space MUST be scouting, I just don’t think there is any reason why it CAN’T be scouting.)

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