|(FRED PROUSER - REUTERS)|
In a disappointing announcement that didn't seem to appease either side of the debate, the Boy Scouts of America announced that they would not be making an immediate decision on ending the long-standing ban on gays in the organization. The decision has been pushed out to May so the organization's 1,400 National Council members may vote on the ban. Here is the full statement released yesterday by the BSA Executive Board:
For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing its youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.
After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.
To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013.
Shortly after the BSA announcement, GLAAD released their own statement and didn't pull any punches in calling out the organization for its decidedly harmful and continuing policies:
“An organization that serves youth and chooses to intentionally hurt dedicated young people and hardworking parents not only flies in the face of American principles, but the principles of being a Boy Scout,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “The Boy Scouts of America is choosing to ignore the cries of millions, including religious institutions, current scouting families, and corporate sponsors, but these cries will not be silenced. We’re living in a culture where hurting young gay people because of who they are is unpopular and discriminatory. They had the chance to end the pain this ban has caused to young people and parents, they chose to extend the pain.”
Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mom from Bridgeport, Ohio, who was ousted as the leader of her son’s Cub Scout Pack in April 2012 because of her sexual orientation, helped spark a national movement calling on the Boy Scouts to change its policy. Tyrrell, with the support of GLAAD, started a petition on Change.org that rallied hundreds of thousands urging the Boy Scouts to welcome gay Scouts and leaders.
“A scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave today,” said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell. “The Boy Scouts had the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents, but they’ve failed us yet again. No parent should have to loo their child in the eye and explain that the Boy Scouts don’t want us. Our fight will continue and we will continue to educate donors and supporters of the Boy Scouts about the effects of their anti-gay policy.”
Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the organization Scouts for Equality, said that today’s news was simply not a strong enough gesture from the Boy Scouts of America to ensure that they take discrimination seriously.
“This is an abdication of responsibility,” said straight Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, the founder of Scouts for Equality. “By postponing this decision, the BSA has caved to those who argue that their anti-gay attitudes trump basic Scouting values of kindness, courtesy and bravery. Scouting was built on a foundation of respect and dignity. Today, the BSA cracked that foundation.”
“On Monday, the Boy Scouts of America received 1.4 million petition signatures urging the organization to end its national policy banning gay youth and parents, and today, those voices went unanswered,” said Change.org Senior Campaign Manager Mark Anthony Dingbaum. “With 9 national campaigns and over 50 local campaigns already launched on Change.org calling for an end to the BSA’s policy, how many more stories of gay youth and leaders, like Ryan Andresen and Jen Tyrrell, need to surface before the Boy Scouts decide to end this policy?”
More than 1 million people have joined Change.org petition campaigns since Tyrrell launched her first petition. Since that day, advocacy efforts and successful petition campaigns have recruited two Boy Scout board members — AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley — to denounce the national anti-gay policy. GLAAD, together with Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality Zach Wahls, have also used Change.org petitions to pressure corporate donors such as Intel and UPS to pull funding until the Boy Scouts end their policy banning gay youth and parents. Last fall, a Bay Area mother named Karen Andresen petitioned her local Boy Scout council to honor her son Ryan with an Eagle Award that was denied to him when the Scout came out as gay. An official Eagle Board Board of Review unanimously approved Ryan’s application for Eagle, but a Boy Scout executive ultimately rejected his application.
Even if the ban is eventually overturned in May, nothing will really change in terms of guaranteed equality. Overturning the national ban will merely give local troops the ability to set their own policies - much like the federal government granted states the right to decide if LGBT people can marry. Although the tide is finally turning in that realm, it's taken too many years, too many lives, and too much time to secure the handful of marriage equality states we do have, Starting a new ground, state-by-state initiative in another playing field isn't the most desirable outcome, but sometimes you have to take your victories where you can find them - even if they present a bumpy, long road ahead.