After May 23’s vote to allow openly gay youth to remain in the organization, some conservatives are planning a mass departure from the century-old organization in protest of the change.
On the other side however supporters of gay rights are vowing to keep fighting until the remaining ban, barring gay adults in the organization, is also lifted.
Among those disapproving of the change is the evangelical Southeast Christian Church in Kentucky, which has already chosen not to renew its charter with Troop 212; executive pastor Tim Hester said in an interview with The Courier-Journal that the decision to break ties was not because of the end result of the vote, but because of the resulting controversy around the organization. He stated that “We cannot be distracted from the mission God has called us to.”
The troop has until the end of the year to find new headquarters.
In contrast, though pro-LGBT groups are celebrating, they say there is more work to do. In a statement on the site Scouts for Equality, GLAAD spokesperson Rich Ferraro said, “Today’s vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end… GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are [also]able to participate.”
In California, supporters of SB 323, a bill that would bar youth organizations that discriminate “on the basis of gender identity [or]sexual orientation” from being tax-exempt, say that they will continue to push passage of the bill.
State Senator Ricardo Lara said in a statement, “The Youth Equality Act will continue to move forward to ensure that discrimination in any form does not exist”•not in our state, not on our dime… since this policy does not include all members of the BSA, it falls short of a truly inclusive policy.”
The bill has passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, and could be heard by the full California Senate as soon as this week.
President Obama, who is also the honorary president of the BSA’s board of directors, is among those welcoming the removal of the policy regarding gay youth, but encouraging the organization to go a step further and welcome leaders who are LGBT as well. A spokesman for the White House, Shin Inouye, said that Obama “continues to believe that leadership positions in the Scouts should be open to all, regardless of sexual orientation.”
GLAAD’s Rich Ferraro predicted that the ban on gay adults in the BSA would prove to be unfeasible as openly gay youth in the organization age and are told that unlike their straight counterparts, they can no longer be active in the Boy Scouts once they reach adulthood. “The BSA now will have to look gay teens in the eye, boys who’ve been involved in Scouting for years, and tell them they’re not going to be able to grow into adult leaders,” he said. “Those conversations will be difficult and shouldn’t be had.”
The BSA released a statement on its website stating,
“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”
The parent of a former Girl Scout, Firinel Turner, told 429Magazine that “I’m relieved that the Boy Scouts voted the way they did regarding allowing non-straight children, I’m hopeful that they’ll soon reconsider their stance on leaders as well. I was always thankful that I didn’t have to worry about my daughter wanting to join an organization that I didn’t feel able to support, as the Girl Scouts have had a wonderful track record regarding LGBT and other diversity issues.”
For those conservatives who no longer consider the Boy Scouts a “moral” option, there are already some alternatives; the Southern Baptists, for example, already have an organization called the “Royal Ambassadors,” which offers similar outdoor activities alongside religious ministry. The Assemblies of God, though involved in mainstream Scouting, also offers its own youth group, “Royal Rangers”.
In contrast to today, as well as to the Girl Scouts, (who accept members regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, considering such matters “a private matter for girls and their families to address”) historically the Boy Scouts didn’t always take the conservative position.
In 1911, a year after their founding, the first “Negro Boy Scout” troops were formed; Negro Troop 75 was the first to be officially promoted by the BSA’s Council in 1916. However, it wasn’t until after the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s that integrated troops became the norm.