August 6, 2015

Ripple Effect: Equality Finds its Way to the Boy Scouts.

Steven Damron/Flickr

The Boy Scouts of America have lifted their ban on openly gay leaders.

As a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, it warms my heart to know that our brothers in khaki are making decisions for the good of the boys they serve.

I have never understood discrimination.

I was not raised, nor have I raised my children, to judge people according to their sexual orientation—or any other arbitrary, perceived differences—which is why these decisions towards equality speak to my heart.

At the organization’s inception, part of the Boy Scouts of America mission statement was, “To teach [boys] patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred values.”

A later revision to the statement includes the words “ethical and moral choices.” The more recent wording specifically prohibited adults in leadership positions from identifying themselves as “open and avowed homosexuals.” These words were used to keep gay adults and boys out of the membership.

This prohibition is unique to Boy Scouts of America. Their Canadian and European counterparts have no such language or prohibitions.

The winds of change within the organization began to blow two years ago, when the National Council removed the barrier to membership for gay boys. Openly gay adults, however, were still banned—until this year.

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States dropped a pebble into the civil rights lake.

The question before the esteemed justices may have concerned marriage equality, but the ripples spreading out from there reach beyond the rights of people to marry whomever they love.

Just as the actions of Rosa Parks were a pebble that rippled out to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington—the SCOTUS decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, et. al 576 U.S. (2015) has reached into other facets of the gay rights movement.

The decision to lift the ban on openly gay adults is a step in the right direction for an organization with a rich history and a real place in helping boys grow into responsible citizens. The caveat that allows individual troops to decide for themselves is the only part I find somewhat disappointing.

Religious organizations that sponsor troops registered their opposition to the policy change almost immediately. However, the 21st century family dynamic is significantly different from what  “the norm” was when the Boy Scouts organization was born.

In 1910, families consisted of mom, dad and the kids. In 2015, the parental configuration often looks very different, and excluding the parents of these families alienates the children as well.

The Court’s decision represents a critical paradigm shift in the pursuit for equality for the gay community. Likewise, the Boy Scouts of America’s decision represents a critical shift for the organization. Make no mistake that they are only shifts. They are the first steps on a long path stretching out before American society.

Just as racism still exists—so does the unfair judgement of how others live. There will always be people who don’t like someone because of the color of their skin or who they choose to love.

I dream of a society where the content of a person’s character counts far more than superficiality. I applaud the changes that have been made thus far, and I eagerly await the next pebble that will hit the water.


Relephant Reads:

Sorry, You Can’t Be a Boy Scout. 

Boy Scouts rediscover their role as a Moral Center for American Youth!


Author: Lois Person

Apprentice Editor: Lindsay Carricarte/Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Steven Damron

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