Commentary

08.28.15

Gay Scout Leaders Mostly Welcome in BSA

By

Brian Peffly
Brian Peffly

On July 27, a century-old organization made a momentous change in its membership—the Boy Scouts of America lifted the ban on gay adults as Scout leaders and employees. The decision means that more people will be able to remain true to who they are without fear of dismissal.

Progress Toward Equal Opportunity

This change represents another step forward that has been taken by the BSA that aspires to teach a generation of young men life skills. Gay youth have been allowed since 2013.

As BSA President Robert Gates said in a statement following the resolution approved by the National Executive Board, “The best way to allow the BSA to continue to focus on its mission and preserve its core values was to address the issue and set our own course. And that’s what we’ve done.”

It’s more obvious than ever. Amending the policy to allow gay adults to serve in leadership positions helps to bridge divisions within the organization and eliminates arguments that would otherwise alienate potential scout leaders.

Not Quite There Yet

However, there are still problems as far as equal opportunity is concerned. The BSA allowed an exemption for church-sponsored troops, which comprise more than 70 percent of total troops.

The ACLU of Ohio, along with Equality Ohio, Scouts for Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, has been advocating for former Scout Brian Peffly and other gay scout leaders.

Religious organizations will still have the ability to make choices of leadership based on their own beliefs. This will allow some institutions to still deny gay Americans opportunities to be scout leaders.

According to the BSA, chartered organizations will continue to select their own adult leaders. Religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as a criterion for selecting adult leaders, including in matters of sexuality.

Additionally, people who hold no religious beliefs are categorically excluded from leadership in scouting units. A recent Pew Research Center survey, showed that just over 22 percent of Americans have no religious affiliation.

Treating everyone equally should be a priority for organizations with the influence that the BSA has.

Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, we can continue to fight for inclusion and non-discriminatory practices in powerful institutions across the nation. It’s a simple matter of fairness.

For now, we can bask in this victory. Untold numbers of former leaders who were kicked out for who they are have been encouraged to reapply and reconnect with the BSA. The organization has become more hospitable to gay leaders, and that’s a step forward.

Kaleb Carter is an intern with the ACLU of Ohio.

 

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