Leaders of the Boy Scouts of America will vote this week on whether to ease the group’s long-standing, ironclad ban on allowing gay boys to become members and gay adults to serve as volunteers.
Under the proposal, organizations such as churches and civic clubs that sponsor Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs would be able to decide for themselves what policy to set. No local group would be forced to admit gay members and adults, in violation of its conscience or comfort zone; likewise, no group will be forced to ban or oust gay members and adults, which BSA policy now requires.
That seems like exactly the right compromise, given the range of geographic, religious and cultural communities that Scouting serves. After all, what works in Utah may not work in Minnesota. It also may not be as simple as it might sound — troops meet often in regional, state and even national events, creating the potential for continued cultural conflicts. However, part of the role of Scouting should be to teach young boys how to overcome such differences.
As a veteran of many a Scout jamboree, not to mention weekly meetings in dank church basements, I still feel a deep personal connection to and affection for the organization, and would welcome this important step forward. While others may not be as supportive, time does and must change things.
(Because some will ask, I got as far as Life Scout, one rank below Eagle, before our troop in suburban Pittsburgh fell apart quickly in what — in hindsight — may have been a covered-up abuse scandal. My military family was transferred to an airbase in Italy shortly thereafter, and that was the end of Scouting for my brother and I. But by then, to be honest, girls and other distractions had begun to pull my attention away anyway.)
– Jay Bookman