Scouts For Equality Rally For Inclusive Boy Scouts Of America

Scouts for Equality, the Boy Scout alumni association working to end the Boy Scouts of America’s national policy of mandatory discrimination against LGBT Scouts and leaders, held a national day of action Friday. The dozens of events at Scout councils across the country encouraged the national representatives from each to back a proposed rule change to allow openly gay Scouts and to also push for an end to the exclusion of LGBT adults as volunteers and professionals with the organization.

In Bethesda, Maryland, dozens of Eagle Scouts, current Scouts, parents, and volunteer leaders gathered outside the National Capital Area Council headquarters. Scores of cars passing on the highway next to the building honked in support, while attendees held signs urging and end to the ban.

ThinkProgress talked with several participants. Debbie Heller, mother of an Eagle Scout and wife of a former Scoutmaster, said that “I think Scouting is the greatest organization in the world, but if they continue to discriminate, I could couldn’t support” the BSA.

Eagle Scout David Churchill observed: “Discrimination is wrong.” Noting that the Boy Scout law requires all Scouts to be kind, he said “the organization needs to reflect that as well.

Jody Benjamin, a former Den leader and committee chair, objected to the current requirement that troop leaders kick out youths who identify as gay. “The Scouts are asking me to be a liar or to do a really hurtful thing to a child. I can’t do it, and so I think it’s wrong.”

Justis Tunia, who earned his Eagle Scout award in Layton, Utah in 1995, lamented that events like this were necessary. “It’s a shame that we as former members and families associated with Scouting have to push the organization in this direction, as these were values that were taught to us throughout our period in Scouting.”

Andrew Kragie, who was Senior Patrol Leader of his Washington, DC troop and achieved the Eagle rank in 2010, noted that he worked to teach younger Scouts not to bully and to respect all others. “Just being accepting about different people, it was the basic tenets of living together and being at a camp site together.”

Eagle Scout Harris Walker, a North Carolina native, noted that he has LGBT family members. “I want to see my nephews be able to participate in a Scouting organization where their mothers can be their Den mothers.”

And Jerald Lentini, who earned his Eagle Scout award in Georgia, explained that “Scouting is a trail, and we’re being told that we should be leaving some of our fellow hikers on that trail, along the wayside, because they are different than us.”

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Roughly 1,400 representatives will vote on May 24 whether to end the ban on gay Scouts. It is unclear whether they will also be allowed to vote on proposals to also eliminate allow LGBT adults into the program.