What functioned well for 103 years cannot simply be reversed. That must be understood. For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) asked no questions about sexual preference because there was nothing to be answered. In the traditional American organization, one is a role model and protector of values — and to be protected is a view of the world that only recognizes heterosexuality.
One hundred years ago this was quite in line with society; however, society has long since changed. Openly gay and lesbian partnerships are a reality today, a majority of Americans support the legalization of same-sex marriage and the ban on gays in the military was lifted in a historic decision in 2011.
Therefore, it is only logical for the national delegates of the BSA to rethink their membership qualifications and finally change them, with over 60 percent of the vote. Yet the organization did not accomplish this from within itself. Public pressure was necessary to place the topic on the agenda.
It was mothers like Jennifer Tyrrell who fought for equal rights. She was excluded from her volunteer work with the BSA based on her sexual orientation. Through her and other voices, debate was generated in the whole country over whether 2.7 million scout members should continue to be raised within a reactionary worldview to uphold society.
Regulations for Adult Members
Yet it is also mothers like Jennifer Tyrrell who do not profit from the BSA’s decision. Gay youths may now wear their triangular scarf without shame or playing hide and seek. The regulations for adult members, however, remain untouched. That is not only an inconsistent but rather absurd decision.
How is a youth supposed to openly stand by his sexuality when there are no role models, reference persons or advisers in an organization that is important to him? All youths need guidance, which they often seek in clubs, in their free time or in their comfort zone instead of at home or in school. From the BSA, that will be impossible in this form. Moreover, no homosexual boy scout will be able to continue to be involved as soon as he turns 21.
The BSA has declared a change in its bylaws for young members, yet it essentially continues to discriminate. All those who impart values to youths must still correspond to an antiquated worldview.
Fears of losing church sponsors and members should not drive the responsible parties here; these people will leave anyway after the decision in favor of equal rights for youths. Therefore, the next step for the BSA would be to make a comprehensive decision out of an inconsistent one — for all members of the organization.
Edited by Gillian Palmer