WASHINGTON, May 23, 2013 ― The Boy Scouts of America voted today to accept openly gay boys as scouts, but the ban on gay adult leaders remain in effect.
More than 1,400 volunteer leaders from across the country met today in Grapevine, Texas to vote on the proposed measure which stated that no youth may be denied membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” The vote was quick and decisive with a fairly large majority of 61 percent voting in favor of the resolution.
This decision followed years of resistance and debate. Top national leaders of the Boy Scouts had supported the change, but they came face to face with conservative leaders and parents who were strongly opposed and who threatened to break their ties with the organization if the policy were changed.
But the national leaders saw trends that had them concerned for the viability of the Boy Scouts if changes were not made. The enrollment numbers have been dropping at a steady pace, and younger parents are not interested in having their boys join an organization that seems to them discriminatory and old fashioned at a time when homosexuality’s public acceptance has continued to rise.
This vote will not bring peace and harmony to the Boy Scout organization.
In an attempt to find middle ground on an issue where there is no middle ground, the national leaders did not tackle the issue of gay leaders, and the ban on their involvement will remain. With today’s vote, local leaders are going to have openly gay Eagle Scouts in their troops who will have to be told on their 18th birthday that they are no longer allowed to be part of the organization. There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that this process will lead to lawsuits in a relatively short time, bringing further dissent and debate front and center.
Leaders of conservative groups do not understand how or why the national leadership has ignored the morality and beliefs of their members.
They believe that lawsuits will soon force the organization to allow gay leaders. “The fallout from this is going to be tremendous,” predicted Robert Schwarzwalder, a senior vice president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, and the father of two scouts in Northern Virginia. “I think there will be a loss of hundreds of thousands of boys and parents.”
“This great institution is going to be vitiated by the intrusion of a political agenda,” he said.
Religious and conservative leaders believe that the liberals who have fought so hard for this change are still not going to join the boy scouts, and conservatives will move on to find or start their own groups with values in line with their own. Therefore the leadership’s hopes that this will stop the decline in membership will backfire.
John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net, which opposed the resolution, called the vote a “sad day for Scouting.”
“It is with great sadness and deep disappointment that we recognize on this day that the most influential youth program in America has turned a tragic corner,” Stemberger said. “The vote today to allow open and avowed homosexuality into Scouting will completely transform it into an unprincipled and risky proposition for parents.”
The conservative Family Research Council tweeted: “Sadly, the @boyscouts’ legacy of producing great leaders has become yet another casualty of moral compromise.”
Allison Mackery of Hanover, Pa., has five sons: one an Eagle Scout, three now active in scouting, and an eight-year-old who had planned to join.
The family has discussed the issue and reached a decision, she said: All the sons were willing to abandon the Boy Scouts if openly gay members are allowed.
“The Boy Scouts are something we’ve really enjoyed because they celebrate manliness and leadership,” she said. But she added that she and her husband were “looking to encourage our sons in traditional Christian values.”
She spoke about those values at a rally she organized last Friday in front of the New Birth of Freedom Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. About 30 people showed up.
Personally, she said she would be disappointed if her sons had to leave the scouts.
“To stand by principles would be difficult,” she said. “But we’re going to have to say ‘no.’ The organization is giving up freedom.”
The meeting of the assembled delegates here Wednesday night was a closed door meeting, the top three leaders of the Boy Scouts — Wayne Brock, the paid chief executive, Wayne Perry, the volunteer president who is a corporate leader from Washington state, and Tico Perez, the volunteer commissioner and a consultant in Florida — made a strong plea to allow gay youths, saying the goal of scouting was to reach as many boys as possible, according to people who attended.
“This is not about what’s legal but what’s compassionate, caring and kind,” Mr. Brock reportedly said.
Immediately after the resolution passed, Mr. Brock, Mr. Perry and Mr. Perez left the building.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-day Saints has had a 100 year association with the Boy Scouts of America and has even made the Boy Scouts the church’s official youth leadership program.
It had been estimated that if the resolution passed, 97 percent of the chartered organizations in the heavily Mormon areas of Utah and Idaho would leave the BSA.
The Latter-day Saints released a statement one hour after the vote stating “The Church’s long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the Church: “young men … who agree to abide by Church standards” are “welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate” This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been — and is not now — a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest. The Church appreciates BSA’s reaffirmation of its commitment to “duty to God,” which includes service to others and moral behavior — central principles of our teaching to young men.
The new policy will take effect on January 1, 2014.
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