A new Boy Scout policy went into effect yesterday, January 1, allowing for openly gay youth to become Scouts; however, LGBT adults will still not be welcomed as leaders or chaperones. While some parents and smaller supporters have pulled away following the decision, major sponsors have stayed in the game and Boy Scouts of America leaders are confident that the new policy will be in the best interest of Scouts.
The decision was made in May with 60 percent in favor from the BSA’s 1,400-person National Council. Gay prospective members will now be free from discrimination in the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and co-ed Venturers.
One result was the formation of new BSA competitors, such as Trail Life; formed by Orlando attorney John Stemberger, it was created for boys whose parents decided to pull their children from or decline to join an LGBT-supporting organization. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Trail Life, which openly bars gay members and allows only Christian men for leadership, now has over 500 troops nationwide.
While some local churches have rescinded sponsorship, the Mormon Church and the Roman Catholic churches have not.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of fallout,” Brad Haddock, a BSA national executive board member, told the Associated Press. “If a church said they wouldn’t work with us, we’d have a church right down the street say, ‘We’ll take the troop.’”
17-year-old Pascal Tessier of Maryland has been a member of the BSA since the sixth grade, and he had always had dreams of becoming an Eagle Scout. However, Tessier knew that he could never advance to his full potential as a Scout because of his orientation and the BSA’s strict policies against gay members. Now, Tessier will have the chance to become an Eagle Scout while being open and proud of his sexuality.
“[Becoming an Eagle Scout] shows to everyone that I’m a capable person,” Tessier told the Los Angeles Times. “That I’m worth something.”
The BSA is still working out policies regarding bunkmates and community showering, but they maintain that all Scouts will be accommodated appropriately.