If you've been living under a rock (read: never read any gay news sites), then you might not realize that the 100+ year old homophobic organization known as the Boy Scouts of America has decided to put before its Board of Directors (a bunch of very old, very white, very conservative - nay, far, far right wing conservative - men) a proposal to remove the ban AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL against LGBT leaders and scouts as members. As you can probably tell, there is some scorn in my voice. Here's why:
Yes, this is a HUGE step towards equality for, in my opinion, LGBT youth more than adults. While all should be considered equal, I was a gay scout leader for 30-odd years while deeply closeted, so it is possible. The youth, not so much - they simply feel DIFFERENT, left out, not always a part of the group at a time when acceptance and peers and being part of the gang is so important in their development. But the BSA has left a HUGE HOLE in this new policy. It is going to allow the individual chartered organizations to decide whether or not to admit gay youth and leaders.
A "chartered organization" is pretty much any group willing to be the "umbrella" organization for a scout troop, cub scout pack, Explorer post, or Venture crew. Every sort of group is - community associations, Elks Lodges, other fraternal and civic organizations, school PTAs, fire stations, police departments, even groups formed especially to be a chartered organization for a unit. But the VAST MAJORITY of the charters are held by churches. Remember now, in this possible policy shift (it hasn't been voted on yet), atheists are still excluded. You must profess a belief in a Supreme Being of some sort to be a member. But that's OK, and an argument for the Madalyn Murray O'Hairs to fight. Of the churches, I'd bet money that over 70% of the charters (making up probably 50% of the total charters in the BSA) are held by Catholic Churches, Baptist Churches, United Methodist Churches, and surprise, surprise, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - the Mormons. Anyone want to take a stab at how many of those chartered orgs will open their units to LGBTQ youth and/or adults? My guess: zilch, zero, nada, nil, aught, and naught...not a fucking one.
|Name of Organization||Total Units||Total Youth|
|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints||37882||420977|
|United Methodist Church||11078||371491|
|Parent-teacher groups other than PTAs||3712||153214|
|Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)||3663||127931|
|Groups of Citizens||3445||106852|
|Parent-Teacher Association/Parent Teacher Organization||1661||69812|
The BSA is clearly considering this for two reasons. One, donations are drying up. Corporations are being pressured to stop giving to the BSA and its discriminatory policies, and the bad publicity associated with their good corporate names is not something bigwig CEOs want to see on the the front page of the newspaper, on every news channel, and splashed across every news website. They are tired of their phones ringing off the hook on both sides of the argument, and their email inboxes filling up daily with hate mail. So they acquiesce, and find other charities who do not discriminate to give their money to. And it's not like they quit giving to charities; they just turn it to positive news by stopping the money to the BSA. An easy peasy way to turn bad news into good.
Then two, the BSA is dreadfully tired of the bad publicity being heaped on it. This affects even small donors and quite possibly as important, membership numbers which are more or less level or down a bit over the past few years, but down by nearly 40% since the 70's and 80's.
"For the year ending December 31, 2011, BSA has lost over 589,057 registered Cub Scouts since 1998. Total membership in BSA's traditional programs has declined by approximately 25% (900,169 members), since 1997!"
(from http://www.bsa-discrimination.org/html/bsa_membership.html, but I am seen these numbers elsewhere, I just can't find them again!)They are finally figuring out that if they discriminate, the news media, liberal or not, is going to grab hold and twist it until it hurts. And it does hurt. Between the release of the "perversion files" (my name is undoubtedly in them) which has resulted in news articles across the country, the exclusion of a lesbian mother as a den leader for her 6 year old Cub Scout son, and what I think was the last straw, a council denying Eagle Scout to a young man who earned it, when he came out as gay at 17 years old. Then the council tried to smear him, and of course, it backfired and made them look like crap in the news. The national news. (Truth be known, I'd have counselled this youth to stay closeted until he had his national approval. But perhaps, since he finished his work before he was 18, he can get it if national does approve this change.)
I kind of see this move as a corporation saying "we won't discriminate anymore, but you individual departments (or franchisees, which is arguably a closer analogy) can do whatever you please." So there will be little change in many places, but at least chartered organizations that want to be inclusive can, and new groups can become chartered organizations and allow all youth and adults to join! So perhaps one step forward at least.