About the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

Part 2 of 2:

2013 to 2015: Continuing changes to the BSA's
exclusionary membership policies based on
gender, sexual orientation, & religious

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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More change advocated:

In 2013, when the BSA council voted to admit gay youth as boy scouts, the Towleroad web site reported on reactions from individuals who had experienced past harm due to the now abandoned discriminatory policy:

Towleroad web site published five comments asking that more discrimination policies be abandoned:

  • An Ohio mother, Jennifer Tyrrell, was expelled from the BSA because she is a lesbian. She worked with GLADD, a large national pro-LGBT activist group, to end discrimination of Scout youth who are gay. When the BSA National Council voted to accept gays as youth members, she commented:

    'When I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts last April, I was devastated. Having to look my son, Cruz, in the eye and tell him that our family isn't good enough was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Today is truly a watershed moment for me, but even more so for the millions of kids across this country, who will now be allowed to serve in the Scouts without fear of rejection. I'm so proud of how far we've come, but until there's a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue."

Tyrrell remained personally expelled from the BSA because she is a lesbian. The old policy of discriminating against adult gays and lesbians will continue.

  • Pascal Tessier, launched a petition on Change.org to persuade the BSA to allow gay youth as members. It received more than 128,000 signatures. After the National Council vote, he said:

    "Just a few hours ago, I was thinking that today could be my last day as a Boy Scout. Obviously, for gay Scouts like me, this vote is life-changing. Like my brother before me, I now have a chance to earn my Eagle award -- something that’s taken most of my life to achieve. Finally, Scouts are no longer forced to choose between upholding the Scout Oath and being open and honest about who they really are as a person."

  • A Kentucky father Greg Bourke was ousted as the Scoutmaster of his son's Boy Scouts troop because he is gay. He said:

    "This is an historic day in the 103-year history of the Boy Scouts of America -- the day it finally found its moral compass and started down the long trail to equality in Scouting. No longer will gay [youths in the ] Boy Scouts have to hide their sexual orientation from fear of being criticized and ousted from the Boy Scout membership rolls. That is definite progress, but even with this approved membership change, gay adults like Jennifer Tyrrell and myself will continue to be banned from serving in the Scouts, even in units with our own children. There is no other word for that except discrimination.'

  • Eric Andresen, who along with his wife Karen, launched a petition on Change.org in support of their son Ryan. He said:

    'We are relieved to hear that other Scouts will not have to suffer the rejection and expulsion that Ryan experienced, and we’re glad to see that the BSA is finally starting to see how harmful its discriminatory policies have been. Had this policy been in place just 8 months ago, Ryan would already be an Eagle Scout, and he could've avoided so much pain."

  • Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and Founder of Scouts for Equality said:

    "Today’s vote ending discrimination of gay Scouts is truly a historic moment and demonstrates the Boy Scouts of America’s commitment to creating a more inclusive organization. Scouts for Equality is honored to be a part of the movement that has achieved a tremendous victory towards the fight for equality in America and we are proud to call ourselves Scouts. We look forward to the day where we can celebrate inclusion of all members and are committed to continuing our work until that occurs'." 4

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2015-MAY-21: The BSA President recommended that the group's leadership consider further changes to its membership and employment policies concerning gays:

Robert M Gates, a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and a former Secretary of Defense, was elected President of the BSA in 2014. At a BSA national meeting in Atlanta, GA, he delivered a speech recommending that the leaders of the organization "reflect and pray" about the advisability of further changing both its membership policy and its hiring policy with regard to the LGBT community:

He noted a number of accelerating changes the BSA and in U.S. culture during recent years:

The New York Council, the Denver Council, and others were openly defying the BSA's current membership policy by allowing gay adults as leaders. The revolt appears to be spreading.

He referred to the recent explosive social, political, and judicial changes in the U.S. towards the LGBT community. This was probably a reference to gay marriage, which had become available in over 35 states to over 70% of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual couples in the U.S. at the time of his speech.

He also referred to the uproar in Indiana and elsewhere concerning various states' "freedom to discriminate" legislation.

Finally, he referred to laws being passed in some states that prohibit employment discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

He said:

"We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it would be. The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained. We can expect more councils to openly challenge current policy. ... Dozens of states, from New York to Utah are passing laws protecting employee rights on the basis of sexual orientation. ... The country is changing and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels.

He suggested that the leadership might consider having the BSA changing its policies to:

  • Extend membership to adult gay leaders;

  • Eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation in its own hiring practices;

  • Letting individual sponsors of scout troops -- about 70% of which are churches and other religious organizations -- to decide whether to follow suite or to continue to discriminate against the LGBT community.


Josh Schiller is a partner in the legal firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner who are active in LGBT equality cases. He said:

"We’re very hopeful that the result of Robert Gates’s statement today means that the Boy Scouts are truly looking forward and not backward, and that a positive resolution will result for everybody."

There were 189 comments posted to S's Washington Post article by readers. Some expressed concern about gay scout leaders molesting boy scouts. But:

"ajabajadaja" noted that:

"... Girl Scouts have had openly gay scouts and leaders for a long time with no problem, and even [included] transgender girls and women. So really, Boy Scouts, get with it."

"foxxy1" posted that:

"What nonsense. Gays aren't interested in children. You have gays confused with pedophiles. 2

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2015-JUL-13: BSA Executive Committee approves a resolution ending discrimination against gay adult leaders:

The committee unanimously approved a resolution to allow openly gay leaders in the organization. Individual churches and other sponsors of troops will be allowed to continue to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation if they wish.

The BSA issued a statement saying that the policy change was the:

"... result of the rapid changes in society and increasing legal challenges at the federal, state, and local levels. ... This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families. This change would also respect the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own." 2

Zach Wahls is an Eagle Scout and executive director of Scouts for Equality. As the name implies, his group promotes an end of discrimination against LGBT members and leaders in the BSA. He said that if this resolution is accepted by the full Executive Board that:

"... gay adults who want to get involved -- and there are lots of them -- can put the uniform back on, and they can serve openly and honestly in an inclusive unit that will accept them. I couldn’t be happier about that. ... This is a step in the right direction. But we’re still really concerned that there are still going to be groups that are going to be hostile to adult [gay] leaders." 2

Putting "the uniform back on" is a reference to the BSA policy change in 2013 had allowed openly gay youth to join the BSA. However, they were forced to leave the organization at the age of 18 and could not continue as a BSA leader.

The Family Research Council (FRC) is a conservative Christian para-church organization, which has been selected by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of 13 American anti-gay hate groups. 2 Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president of the FRC. He considers the resolution to be:

"... a temporary fix. ... trying to split the difference [on the issue]. ... There’s a certain kind of incoherence about that. I think it sends a very conflicting message to the boys who participate in Scouting. If they were to go all one way or all another, that would make sense. But I don’t think this is a policy that will endure. It’s not logical. It’s not, frankly, fair really to anyone." 2

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormon Church -- has long been one of the major religious supporters of the BSA. The Church issued a statement:

"As a chartering organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs. Any resolution adopted by the Boy Scouts of America regarding leadership in Scouting must continue to affirm that right." 2

Fortunately for for interests of the Mormon Church, the proposed policy change would introduce a local option and allow them and other troop sponsors the religious freedom to continue to discriminate against gays.

John Stemberger, is president of the Florida Family Policy Council, a conservative Protestant organization. He is also the founder of Trail Life USA -- a conservative Christian competitor of the BSA. He was not impressed by the BSA's proposed policy change. He said:

"The mission of the Boy Scouts of America ... is to teach young people ethics and morals. And what are we saying to young people when our values are challenged? Do we defend them, do we stand up for them? No, we just change them and capitulate to the culture." 2

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2015-AUG-24: The BSA Executive Board voted to accept gay employees and adult leaders:

Michelle Boorstein, writing for the Washington Post, said:

"The Boy Scouts of America, facing litigation, shrinking membership, and sweeping acceptance of gay rights, voted Monday to lift its ban on openly gay troop leaders and employees.

The national organization will no longer allow discrimination against its paid workers or at BSA-owned facilities. But local troops and councils will be permitted to decide for themselves whether they will allow openly gay volunteer leaders." 4

A spokesperson of the Mormon Church issued a statement saying that its:

"... century-long association with Scouting would need to be examined." 4

Douglas Laycock, a specialist in religious liberty from the University of Virginia commented on the BSA's policy shift on discrimination against gay leaders from being decided at the national level into a local option. He said:

"It’s changing the target [of litigation] because now it will be all about the local, not the national. It changes the dynamic a lot. It makes it more informal, less visible.” 3

Yasmin Cassini was hired to run a Scout center in Colorado. She was fired when she came out of the "closet" as a lesbian. Her lawyer, Josh Schiller said:

"This was a very important and difficult change for such an organization. I definitely think it’s the beginning of building inclusive programs. ... It’s halfway where we want to be." 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. S "Boy Scouts president warns that ban on gay leaders threatens organization," The Washington Post, 2015-MAY-21, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  2. Mark Berman, "Boy Scouts executive committee endorses ending ban on gay leader," The Washington Post, 2015-JUL-13, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  3. Evelyn Schlatter, "18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda," Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, 2010-Winter Issue #140 of at: http://www.splcenter.org/
  4. Michelle Boorstein, "Boy Scouts of America votes to end controversial ban on openly-gay scout leaders," The Washington Post, 2015-JUL-27, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

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Copyright 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2015-AUG-29
Latest update : 2015-AUG-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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