CNN’s Soledad O’Brien challenged the conservative opposition to keeping gays scouts and leaders out of the Boy Scouts on Wednesday morning, comparing the organization’s ban to past restrictions on African Americans and women.
The group has come under pressure from corporate sponsors to expand its policy of excluding gays and lesbians from the ranks and prominent right-wing activists like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry have come to its defense, arguing that excluding gays is part of the organization’s “core values” and essential for raising boys into men.
O’Brien disputed these claims during an interview with Perkins, pointing out that “core values” and moral codes evolve over time. “I remember when I was in school,” she said. “If you were a teacher and you were pregnant, you were removed from the classroom. It was considered morally inappropriate to have a pregnant woman in the classroom. Blacks in the military was morally problematic.” “How come this doesn’t fall into the same kind of guidelines?” O’Brien asked.
Perkins responded by arguing that unlike the immutable characteristic of race or gender, gay people can change their sexual orientation to become straight and insisted that allowing them into the Boy Scouts would lead to inappropriate sexual relationships and increase instances of pedophilia:
PERKINS: We’re talking about comparing immutable characteristics with characteristics that are not immutable. First, the Boy Scouts have had a long history of struggling with an issue of protecting the boys. Last fall they were forced by the court to release about 15,000 pages that identified 1,900 predators within the Boy Scouts. [...]
O’BRIEN: Are you saying that someone who is gay is a pedophile, Sir?
PERKINS: No, I never said that. You said that. I didn’t.
O’BRIEN: I’m asking the question. You are saying that you would be worried about –
PERKINS: They are trying to create an environment that is protective of children. This doesn’t make it more protective. There is a disproportionate number of male on boy — when we get on pedophilia, male on boy is a higher incident rate of that. We never said all homosexuals are pedophiles. that’s not what we’re saying.
In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts — a private and traditionally religious organization — did not have to include gay and lesbian scout masters since it undermined its core value. In response to growing public pressure and plummeting membership rates, the group is considering instituting a local option, that will allow local chapters to admit gays, but could undermine its legal argument.
The Boy Scouts’ approach to admitting gays could “mirror the leave-it-to-the-locals tack the organization once took in deciding how to tackle the issue of desegregating its Scout troops.” Throughout the 20th century, the national leadership “gave wide discretion to councils to set their own racial policies,” permitting chapters in the South to run segregated groups or prohibit blacks. The last last council did not integrate until 1974.