Boy Scouts of America to Vote on Lifting Gay Ban

The Boy Scouts of America will vote on lifting its ban on gay Scouts—but not gay Scout leaders—at its annual meeting in May. Its own research into how members and other affiliates view the issue led to the decision.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced Friday that it was proposing to lift the organization’s ban on gay Scouts but would continue to prohibit gay Scout leaders.

BSA’s National Council will vote on the proposal during its annual meeting the week of May 20. The resolution that “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone” comes after a tumultuous debate touched off in January when the group announced it was reviewing its policy.  According to a blog on The Washington Post, after postponing the decision in February, the BSA surveyed adult members, parents, alumni, teens, donors, religious partners, and Scouting leaders to determine its next step.

The BSA’s research found that 61 percent of respondents supported its current policy but that a majority of younger parents and teenagers opposed it. The survey also showed that views on homosexuality have changed rapidly in recent years. Today, parents—including those who don’t have a child in a youth organization—oppose the current policy by a 45 percent to 42 percent margin; 58 supported it just three years ago.

As one might expect, reaction to the news was mixed.

“Until every parent and young person have the same opportunity to serve, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations,” Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for the gay-rights watchdog group GLAAD, told USA Today. In the same article, Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, called the policy “incoherent” because it effectively said homosexuality is morally acceptable until a boy turns 18, at which time he would be banned from the Scouts.

A.J. Smith, president of the Association of Baptists for Scouting, told Reuters that the policy change was “a bad move” and “a concerted effort to bring down a cultural icon.”

“What message does this resolution send to the gay Eagle Scout who, as an adult, wants to continue a lifetime of Scouting by becoming a troop leader?” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, asked in an AP report after calling the move “timid.”

The organization also caught negative press for announcing the news during a time of national crisis.  A columnist for Time criticized the timing, saying the club was trying to “bury the news,” releasing it during the hunt for the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, and that the “misguided tactic” was going to give the issue even more attention than if it were handled with more PR savvy.

(Eyecandy Images/Thinkstock)

Daniel Ford

By Daniel Ford

Daniel Ford is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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