2012-AUG-06: Romney once announced support for gay and lesbian scout membership:
On APR-26, The Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) released a video of a 1994 political debate in which Mitt Romney -- the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2012 -- debated with Ted Kennedy during the Massachusetts senate race of 1994. He stated his belief that the BSA has the legal right to establish whatever membership requirements they wish. But he also believed that persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation should be able to join.
He said at the time:
"... the Boy Scouts of America does a wonderful service for this country. I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation."
He was a member of Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board when he made that statement.
Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for Romney, confirmed that he still holds these beliefs today. 1
2012-AUG-08: President Obama supports gays in the BSA:
The White House press office issued a statement saying that President Obama opposed the Boy Scouts of America's decision to continue to ban gays -- and probably bisexuals -- from the organization. The statement said:
"The president believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century. He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation.
The BSA responded:
"The Boy Scouts of America respects the opinions of President Obama and appreciates his recognition that Scouting is a valuable organization. We believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good."
The President is the honorary president of the BAS but apparently has no plans to resign the position. 2
Author's personal comment on the exclusion of gays from the BSA. Bias alert:
I normally only report cultural and religious development objectively, without interjecting my personal opinions. But occasionally I cannot resist.
I personally feel that a major responsibility of parents is to raise children with values compatible with those of the culture -- not now, but in the future when the children become adults. Most American adults now favor the legalization of same-sex marriage, and equal treatment of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBTs). This support has been increasing for decades. I recommend that parents who are concerned that they and their children be not regarded in the future as bigots on a par with racists, sexists, religists, etc. involve their children in one of the inclusive groups listed in a previous essay. I would personally involve my children with the Boy Scouts of America only as a last resource if no other options were available.
It would seem that the secret BSA committee made their decision after considering only the future of the organization. The statement of the committee stated openly that the:
"BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization." 3
They are probably correct in this assertion. A very large percentage of their local groups are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormons -- or fundamentalist/evangelical Protestant churches. Many local congregations would undoubtedly terminate their affiliation with the BSA if the organization were to accept boys of all sexual orientations.
Still, I would personally like to see the secret BSA committee reconsider the topic as soon as possible, and analyze it from the standpoint of the individual Boy Scout who happens to be gay. A typical gay youth may have only four main influences in his life: his family of origin, school, church, and the Boy Scouts:
He may well live in a permanent state of fear that his family will discover his sexuality and that his parents may toss him out on the street. It has been estimated that about 40% of the homeless youth in America are LGBT.
School is where he may be harassed, rejected, and beaten because he is viewed as different.
At his church, he may be subjected to frequent sermons in which he is said to be disordered, lost in sin, and destined to spend eternity in the torture chambers of Hell.
The BSA had the opportunity to make Boy Scouts the one environment in his life where he could have been open regarding his sexual orientation and feel safe among supportive people. But the BSA decided to join with the other negative influences in his life, and make him fear being exposed and expelled from the BSA as well.
The BSA currently has 2.7 million youth members -- a number that is steadily decreasing. Of these, perhaps 270,000 have feelings of attraction to members of the same gender; they have either a homosexual or bisexual orientation. There is no way to estimate how many of these youths are seriously depressed because of their own internalized homophobia and as a result of the homophobia of others. Nor can we estimate with any degree of accuracy how many are currently losing hope that eventually "It will get better" and are considering suicide. Finally, there is no way to estimate how many will complete suicides in the future.
The BSA had an opportunity to slow down the growth of the trail of coffins filled with their own youth who gave up hoping for better times. But they seem to have considered only their organization and not the plight of their own members who are in real pain. That decision shows their true value system.
I hope that the BSA will consider a future move towards a local option system, in which individual BSA packs, troops, teams, etc., or their sponsoring groups, would be allowed to set their own policies on the admittance of Atheists, Agnostics, gays, bisexuals and females. Alternately, they might consider adopting the path of Boy Scouts Canada or the Scout Association in the UK by being open to membership of boys of all sexual orientations.
Scout denied Eagle award even though he met qualifications:
Ryan Andresen joined the BSA when he was six years of age with the goal of eventually achieving his Eagle award -- the highest rank in the Boy Scouts.
He is now 18 years of age and a senior in high school. He earned many badges, completed all of the Scout requirements to become an Eagle Scout. He completed a tolerance wall for his school that shows support for victims of bullying -- like himself. This was approved by the Scout leadership as his final requirement for the Eagle award.
Then his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout was denied him. The leadership in Troop 212 in the San Francisco Bay Area found out that Ryan is gay. They refused to sign the final papers designating Ryan as an Eagle Scout.
His mother, Karen Andresen, launched a petition on Change.org asking that Ryan be granted the award that he has qualified for. As of 2012-OCT-25, the petition has received 416,225 signatures. It says:
"I'm urging leaders from Troop 212 to reject the Boy Scouts of America's discriminatory anti-gay policy and to give Ryan Andresen the Eagle award he's earned.
Ryan joined the Boy Scouts when he was just six years old, and since then, he's dreamed of earning his Eagle award -- the highest rank in the Boy Scouts.
Ryan is now a senior in high school, and just completed the final requirements to earn his Eagle Award. He's an honor student with great SAT scores, who's hoping to attend the University of San Francisco. But because he recently came out to his friends and family as gay, leaders from your troop say they won't approve his Eagle award.
This is unfair and wrong.
A Scout earns his Eagle by earning many badges, completing all lower Scout rank requirements, and carrying out an approved final project. So Ryan decided to build a "Tolerance Wall" for his school, to show bully victims -- like Ryan -- that they are not alone. Ryan worked countless hours with elementary students to amass a wall of 288 unique tiles, all illustrating acts of kindness.
Many troops around the country are standing up, choosing to reject the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policy. I sincerely hope that Ryan's troop -- Troop 212 -- will become one of them.
"Citizenship in the Community," a merit badge earned, means standing up for what is right, and I am proud of Ryan for doing just that. Will you stand with him, too?" 4