As a former Boy Scout, I can say with all honesty the organization’s founding tenets provide a respectable framework to build a young person’s life upon. And I say this as a bisexual former scout.
Looking through the lens of someone who knows what the Boy Scouts of America is about, I see great hypocrisy in one of its policies—the exclusion of LGBT adults serving as volunteers or professionals in the organization.
Expulsion of LGBT Leaders is “Unsustainable”
In banning these members and volunteers, some who often have been connected to the organization for years or are a parent of a scout, the BSA is continuing an outdated discriminatory policy toward individuals who are often more deserving than most in fulfilling their role. Just think, these LGBT individuals are willing to serve in a position of leadership, knowing fully well the stance that the organization as a whole has against them personally. And it’s personal—even without the BSA really knowing the individuals it has asked to leave.
In Ohio, Brian Peffly, a volunteer assistant scout master and Eagle Scout with Simon Kenton Troop 192, was dismissed for being gay. He and other groups, including the ACLU of Ohio, are fighting the decision.
Read our press releases: “Scouts for Equality, Equality Ohio, Human Rights Campaign, and ACLU of Ohio Launch #StandWithBrian Campaign to Support Ousted Assistant Scoutmaster Brian Peffly," and "Boy Scouts Ease Up On Anti-Gay Policy: Advocates Call For Local Scout's Reinstatement."
With Peffly’s expulsion having occurred in March, a whole new bag of worms emerged just over two months later with a statement from BSA President Robert Gates calling for a review of the policy. The former secretary of defense stated the policy was “unsustainable,” and that the organization must “deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.” Although he also said troop sponsors, which are mostly churches, could exercise their religious freedom by setting their own rules for their troop's leadership.
More Can Be Done
Gates’ comments were a step in the right direction of history for LGBT equality, but surely we can up the ante on this issue?
The BSA needs to have a membership policy that embraces inclusivity, as well as to offer a conciliatory hand to the scout leaders who were asked to leave. Most of all, scout leaders nationwide need to be vocal about how unjust this policy is.
Scouts learn six “essential” needs in their time growing within the organization:
- Lifelong Learning.
- Faith Tradition.
- Serving Others.
- Healthy Living.
- Building Character.
So what is the organization saying when it continues to exclude people like Brian Peffly?
Kaleb Carter is an intern with the ACLU of Ohio.