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Religious Tolerance logo

2013-JAN: The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) considers local option on gays

Reactions to the decision by the
media, public, and gay-positive groups

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Reactions by the media and public:

  • According to the Washington Post, the BSA is experiencing difficulties and internal conflicts because of its rejections of sexual minorities. Diana Reese wrote:

    "Membership in BSA is on the decline — and financial support is falling as well. The Merck Company Foundation, Intel Foundation, UPS and United Way have stopped or postponed donations due to the anti-gay policy of the 102-year-old organization.

    Two members of the Boy Scouts of America national executive board: Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson have supported dumping the ban on gays in favor of inclusion regardless of sexuality.

    Then there are the negative headlines: A lesbian mom was kicked out of her position as a den leader in Ohio. The Eagle Scout application of a California teen who came out was rejected. And last summer, a 19-year-old Eagle Scout in Missouri was fired from his job at a Scout summer camp after he announced he was gay." 1

  • Reporter Kirk Johnson, writing for The New York Times, remarked on how the proposed change surprised many people. He wrote:

    "The announcement on Monday by Scouts officials that the ban on gays was in line for elimination was ... a thunderclap on two fronts, scouts and people close to the organization said. First, it removed from discussion the idea, voiced in [2012-] July by senior national scout leaders, that the ban was in the best interests of scouts themselves.

    Perhaps even more momentous was the acknowledgment that scouting itself had moved on, with a diversity of thought like the multicultural and sexually diverse buzz of modern America itself, that no longer could be confined or defined by a dictated policy from headquarters. Local chapters would be able to decide whether to admit gay scouts." 2

    An editorial the next day stated:

    "... the change the organization is contemplating falls far short of the clear and strong renunciation of antigay bigotry that is called for. It said it would no longer 'dictate' an antigay policy to local scouting groups, but would let them decide whether to permit participation by openly gay people.

    In other words, whether to persist in barring gay youngsters and their families would become a local option: an unprincipled position that would continue to send a message that discrimination is perfectly acceptable even if it is no longer mandatory under national Boy Scouts rules.

    Such a partial move should hardly satisfy former donors who have been repelled by the Scouts’ discriminatory ways. And such a stance will not resolve the quandary faced by parents who want the positive experiences that scouting offers but are appalled by antigay bigotry." 7

    The editorial also said that a local option policy could leave the BSA open to litigation because of violation of states' human rights legislation.

  • The Wall Street Journal commented:

    "The Scouts' turnabout highlights how quickly American attitudes on gay rights are shifting. Last year, President Barack Obama publicly supported same-sex marriage, and voters in three states decided to permit gay weddings.

    The move also shows the growing influence of gay-rights groups and their backers. Throughout 2012, the Scouts were lobbied by organizations that collected more than one million signatures asking it to overturn the ban. Amid the tumult, several major corporate donors pulled their support from scouting organizations." 3

Among the 450 comments posted by readers of the Wall Street Journal article during its initial 20 hours of being online involved speculation on how this local option decision -- if it is approved -- would impact donations received by the BSA:

  • Lawrence Carlson wrote: "It's about time. I'm a former Eagle Scout and do pretty well for myself. I have been withholding my support ($$$) from the organization because of it's backwards stance on homosexuality. I'm happy that I can now support my local council without feeling like I'm contributing to bigotry."

    • Sylvie Adams replied: "Good point but on the flip side BSA contributions will plummet and they will be insolvent if this passes."

      • Lawrence Carlson responded: "I doubt contributions will plummet. Maybe fewer individual former scouts will contribute, but the problem was that large corporate donors and wealthy public figures couldn't donate to the BSA because of the stigma of being tied to a homophobic organization. Now they are freed of that stigma and can donate without being judged as bigots by the court of public opinion."

      • Daniel O'Rouuke replied: "hate to say it Sylvie, but there are overwhelmingly more people in favor of changing this policy than opposed to it. A few angry den moms who stop sending in their $100 checks won't make the BSA insolvent. Bear in mind that the national organization took in $65 million in contributions in 2011, not counting the [amounts received by] hundreds of local councils around the country.

        Over the years, BSA has lost support from many United Way chapters and major corporations (Intel, FedEx, etc.). The money coming from these donors VASTLY outweighs the $100 checks from individual donors." 1

It is not clear whether the proposed "local option" form of discrimination will be sufficient to motivated corporate sponsors to restart donations.

  • National Geographic Channel: There is speculation that the BSA's decision to revisit the gay discrimination issue was at least partly triggered by a TV reality show. The National Geographic Channel will be broadcasting a new series called "Are you tougher than a boy scout? " starting on MAR-04. It will pair active scouts with adults who have never been in scouting, challenging both with tasks often experienced by scouts. Some gay-positive groups asked the channel to add a diclaimer that denounced the BSA for discriminating against gays. A spokesperson for the Channel, Chris Albert, believes that the protest had something to do with the BSA'a reconsideration of their policy. He said:

    "Obviously I can’t say for sure. But I think the discussion around our show amplified the importance of this issue. And we think this is certainly a step in the right direction." 2

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Reactions by a den leader and by major gay-positive groups:

  • Jennifer Tyrrell, a mother of a 7-year-old son, was expelled from her position as den leader of a Tiger Cub den in Bridgeport, OH because she is a lesbian. She launched a petition on asking that people support her reinstatement. Her Tiger Cubs:

    "... earned multiple Scout badges for service and skills, while learning and exercising the 12 Core Values of Scouting: citizenship, compassion, cooperation, courage, faith, health & fitness, honesty, perseverance, positive attitude, resourcefulness, respect, and responsibility." 9

    She reported some inconsistencies in the pack's finances to her council. A week later, her membership was revoked. The stated reason was because she is a lesbian, and thus she did "not meet the high standards of membership that the BSA seeks."When her petition received 300,000 supporters, she delivered the signatures to the BSA. As of 2013-FEB-02, she has received 337,857 signatures and is aiming for a half million.

She said that:

    "From my very first phone call to GLAAD, I knew that we had a real opportunity to create change. An end to this ban will restore dignity to countless families across the country, my own included, who simply wanted to take part in all Scouting has to offer. My family loved participating in scouting, and I look forward to the day when we might once again be able to take part." 8  

  • Herndon Graddick, president of Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) wrote:

    "The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong. Scouting is a valuable institution, and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect." 2

  • Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said:

    "The pulse of equality is strong in America, and today it beats a bit faster with news that the Boy Scouts may finally put an end to its long history of discrimination." 10

Griffin may have initially misunderstood the BSA proposal. It only involves the transfer of the decision whether to discriminate from the national to the local level. Undoubtedly, many troops -- or their sponsoring congregation -- would enthusiastically decide to continue the discrimination.

The HRC subsequently said that the BSA proposed policy is "not good enough." They placed a page on their web site encouraging supporters to send a message to the BSA:

"The Boy Scouts of America is considering ending its nationwide ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders.

But the policy is not good enough – it would simply allow local units to decide on their own whims whether to turn members away just for being gay.

That doesn’t sound friendly, courteous or kind.

The Boy Scouts of America is accepting public feedback on this decision and it’s our duty to let them know that even if discrimination occurs only in one troop, or against one Scout, that’s one too many." 11

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

    "This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction. We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in Scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well." 8

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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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. Diana Reese, "Boy Scouts may reverse national ban against gays as members, leaders," Washington Post, 2013-JAN-29, at:
  2. Kirk Johnson, "In a Quick Shift, Scouts Rethink a Ban on Gays," New York Times, 2013-JAN-28, at:
  3. Geoffrey A. , "Boy Scouts Rethink Gay Ban. Proposed Change Comes After Petition Drives and Pressure by Corporate Backers," Wall Street Journal, 2013-JAN-29, at:
  4. David Demirbilek, "Southern Poverty Law Center repeats 'hate group' claim about Family Research Council," Daily Caller, 2012-SEP-13, at:
  5. "Breaking News: Will the Boy Scouts stand up to bullies?," eMail, Family Research Council, issued during the evening of 2013-JAN-28.
  6. "About Camp Fire," Camp Fire, at:
  7. "Editorial: The Boy Scouts Fall Short," The New York Times, 2013-JAN-29, at:
  8. Rick Ferraro, "Boy Scouts of America considers ending the national ban on gay scouts and scout leaders," GLAAD, 2013-JAN-28, at:
  9. Jennifer Tyrrell, "Boy Scouts of America: Reinstate Cub Scout leader who was removed for being gay,",
  10. David Crary, "Under pressure, Boy Scouts may ease no-gays policy," Associated Press, 2013-JAN-28, at:
  11. "Boy Scouts of America: Not Good Enough," Human Rights Campaign, at:

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Home > Religious conflict > U.S. & Worldwide > Boy Scouts > Reconsider gays > here

or Home > Hot topics > Homosexuality & bisexuality > Homophobia > Boy Scouts > Reconsider gays > here

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Original posting: 2013-JAN-28
Latest updated: 2013-FEB-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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