Today the Boy Scouts of America released a long-awaited decision on whether it will continue its ban on LGBT scouts and adults. The announcement: The Boy Scouts will continue to ban LGBT adults from volunteering, but allow openly gay kids to be scouts.
The resolution (pdf)—which the Scout's national council will vote on next month—spells out the results of the Boy Scouts' survey of its members on the issue: The majority of Boy Scout groups, leaders, and donors actually support the current policy and don't want the group to allow gay members. But among teenage Boy Scouts, a majority support allowing gay scouts and think that the current ban does not demonstrate the "core values" that scouting is all about.
The Scouts should know that banning openly gay adults makes no sense. For their study, the group consulted four doctors who specialize in protecting kids and their recommendations were unanimous: "Same-sex sexual experience, either in adults or youth, is NOT a risk factor for sexually abusing children" and that hanging out with "self-identified homosexual adults" has no effects on children's mental health or sexual orientation.
So a "for the children!" argument here is invalid—and the Scouts know it.
I called the Scouts to ask why the ban on adults still stands, but received only an emailed statement in response to my voicemail: "While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community, and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting." Right.
Look, friends, if you're okay with gay kids but not gay adults, that doesn't make you any less bigoted. What the Scouts have recorded in their survey and outreach is a major culture change, a dramatic shifting of attitudes over the past decade that has made acceptance and support of LGBT folks a mainstream value. They've responded to that major change with a hypocritical half-measure that does not change the core, discriminatory nature of the Scouts. Surely young scouts can see that supporting gay kids but not gay adults is not a logical foundation on which to "make moral and ethical choices over their lifetimes."
Until the scouting leadership is ready to listen to what current young scouts are saying, they're going to continue building a culture of silence, abuse, secrecy, and homophobia.
More power to scouts who stand up againt homophobia and to the parent-led inclusive scouting groups that keep putting the Boy Scouts of America to shame, encouraging kids to get out into nature, become capable critical thinkers, and work together, no matter their sexuality.
Helen Lovejoy image via Manic Geek.