It has been a contentious battle for those affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America who would like to drop the exclusion of gay individuals and those who want to keep it in place. The reasons for both sides are deep-rooted in peoples’ upbringing and strongly-held belief systems.
I saw this ABC News article while catching up on the Boston bombing news from overnight, and finally read it after the bombing news started to become rehash of what I had already read.
Lifting the exclusion of gays for youth members is, in my opinion, a good compromise. While gay parents and guardians would still be excluded from the program, at least the boys will be able to continue, avoiding situations like what happened in California last year, or this new case in Maryland.
If you have never been involved with scouts, you have no idea how long it takes and how much effort goes into earning the rank of Eagle. It is akin to earning a degree in many ways. To be denied that at the last moment is like disqualifying an athlete from an Olympic gold medal after being falsely accused of doping. It’s simply cruel.
Aside from that aspect, even at age 18 boys don’t really know who they are. Legally they are adults, and that’s the birthday that a boy “ages out of scouts,” but there is still a lot of immaturity to overcome in every individual at that age.
The article notes that the change in position from a “never-going-to-be-instated allow all gays” and then putting it on hold to a policy of “allowing gay youth” was in response to a survey that circulated to adult members of the organization.
I participated in that survey and I like to think that my answers had some impact upon this decision. Part of my response to the survey blasted the decision not to award the California boy his Eagle as contrary to the Scout Law and ideals. His deeds that would otherwise be satisfactory became irrelevant due to his sexual orientation. Tragedy.
I have witnessed some very heated discussion between parents of my son’s troop. It is an issue that is emotional for both sides. A complete lifting of the ban on gays won’t happen anytime soon, believe me. There are way too many religious conservative voices that are essential to the success of scouting for that to happen. But that doesn’t make scouting an inherently bad organization.
Scouting is about the boys, not about the parents. Every boy should have the opportunity. (So should every girl, but that is a discussion for another day.) Scouting teaches things that kids don’t really have the chance to learn otherwise. Leadership is key among them. When scouting is done correctly, the boys run everything. When the boys fail, they are allowed to fail and learn from it. The adults are only there to make sure nothing gets out of control. When they succeed, the success truly belongs to the boys. That’s what makes the program special, and that’s why it’s worth saving despite its sometimes archaic policies.
That’s why I think this new initiative to allow gay youth is the right move for right now. While there will be angry adults because new policy won’t allow gay adults, we must remember that scouting is about the boys. Boys growing up with youth gays in the troop will be more tolerant toward gays in the future. Completely lifting the ban on gays today is an impossible task, but it’s a task that the next generation of adult leaders may have a shot at winning. After all, how many black presidents were elected between Lincoln and Obama? Major changes take time, and often take a new generation.