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Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland

American Scouts Say “Yes” to Gays

By Mariusz Zawadzki

After 103 years of moral rigidity, the Boy Scouts of America finally gives up and will allow gays to join its ranks in a few weeks.*

Translated By Maciej Lepka

31 January 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Poland - Gazeta Wyborcza - Original Article (Polish)

Homosexual behavior is at odds with the scout’s oath, which stresses the importance of the chastity of thought, word and action — until recently, that was the official stance of the Boy Scouts of America, the biggest organization of this kind in the country, with 2.5 million boys aged from seven to 18. In July, they were still adamant that gays were forbidden from joining scout teams.

Obviously, not everyone was cheering such a decision. In 1990, James Dale, a gay from New Jersey, told a local newspaper that he had admitted his homosexuality to his colleagues, which had resulted in him having been dismissed from the Scouts. He issued a complaint to the state Supreme Court, which generously declared that he be readmitted to the Scouts. The organization responded with numerous appeals; the whole case ended up in the Supreme Court after 10 years. At this time, Dale was already much too old to be a scout. By a vote of five to four, the judges decided that the Boy Scouts of America was a private organization, free to admit everyone according to its preferences. As the court stated in its reason of judgment, “The First Amendment of the Constitution protects our freedom to associate,” which, according to the court, “presupposes a freedom not to associate. As a result, [t]he forced inclusion of an unwanted person in a group infringes the group's freedom of expressive association if the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group's ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.”

The Boy Scouts of America has never inquired about the sexual orientation of its new members. Most of them enroll at the age of 10 or 11, which would make any questions regarding this matter awkward and risky. The “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (DADT) of the American Army applied here as well. Young boys who discovered their sexual otherness while growing up in scout uniform were allowed to stay, provided that they did not reveal it to the others.

However, the world is constantly evolving; the rules of the Scouts have become more and more obsolete when compared to reality. In 2011, President Obama abolished DADT and allowed gays and lesbians to openly serve in the Army. Same-sex marriages are administered in nine states. Who knows; maybe soon the espousals will also be recognized at the federal level as Barack Obama, on January 20, right after the swearing-in ceremony for his second term, declared that everyone had the right to love and be loved.

In last year’s presidential campaign both candidates — Obama and Republican Mitt Romney — were strongly against the exclusion of gays from the Scouts. As a response to that allegation, the organization considerately attested that “the Boy Scouts of America respects the opinions of President Obama and appreciates his recognition that scouting is a valuable organization. We believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good.”

Bearing that in mind, the message, which was first announced by CBS, that the board of the Boy Scouts of America was considering an alteration in the organization’s principles which would be made public in a few weeks came as a big surprise. Why did the Scouts, who had resisted change for so long and who had been backed up by the Supreme Court, suddenly change their mind and decide to go with the flow?

One of the reasons might be that the organization itself learned the hard way how it feels to be excluded and lost a significant amount of money when a few concerns, including Intel and UPS (a big courier company), withheld donations. This was a direct repercussion of the alleged discrimination against sexual minorities within the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America. The association’s board includes representatives of AT&T and Ernst & Young, who have recently declared that they would be working on making gays welcome in the scouting ranks.

It does not mean that the change in the Scouts will automatically let homosexuals enter the organization. Admittedly, the top-down prohibition is going to be out of the way, but the decision of whether gays are allowed to join up will be up to individual scout groups. Here, each troop’s sponsors are going to have a lot to say. If a group is financed by a church condemning homosexuality, the prohibition will probably be observed.

Certainly, to say that, as always, everything in the U.S. boils down to money would be a great simplification. Corporations have been berating the Scouts for some time as the level of acceptance of homosexuality is on a rapid rise. People are concerned about whether to let their children join the organization: “My son goes to a primary school and would like to be a scout. But what if he turns out to be gay in a few years? He would have to face great humiliation and alienation. I am not going to enroll him until I am certain it will be safe for my adolescent child!” said a mother to CBS.**

*Editor’s Note: As of Feb. 6, the Boy Scouts of America board announced it would be studying the matter of whether to admit gays and lesbians as scout members and volunteers in more depth, and deferring the official decision until May.

**Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.



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