The roughly 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) National Council voted 61–38 percent Thursday to end the ban on gay youth participating in the program, but reaffirmed their policy of mandatory discrimination against LGBT leaders and volunteers.
The move — suggested by the national leadership as an attempted compromise — represents a modest step forward, but still comes as a disappointment to the thousands of Eagle Scouts,1.8 million Change.org petition signers, and the 56 percent of Americans who want the BSA to end its anti-LGBT discrimination.
While the policy change will permit openly gay Scouts like Ryan Andresen to receive their Eagle Scout awards, it will still prevent openly lesbian parents like former Cub Scout Den Leader Jen Tyrrell from volunteering with their parent’s Scout units.
BSA President Wayne Perry wrote, in a USA Today op-ed Wednesday, that allowing LGBT leaders “would have conflicted with the majority of our partners, 70% of which are religious organizations, and would have disrupted our ability to deliver Scouting.” But in the same statement, he noted, the organization was “unaware of any major religious chartered organization that believes a youth member simply stating he or she is attracted to the same sex, but not engaging in sexual activity, should make him or her unwelcome in their congregation.”
This admission and the rule change seem to contradict the BSA’s long-standing rationale that “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirements in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.” By finally admitting that being LGBT is not, itself, incompatible with being “morally straight” or “clean,” the justification for excluding adults purely on the basis of their sexual orientation seems to now be reduced to “some religious organizations prefer discrimination.”
The BSA’s Honorary President Barack Obama and former BSA national board member Mitt Romney agreed in their 2012 presidential campaign that the organization should stop discriminating based on sexual orientation — a view shared by corporate CEOs and more than 7,000 Eagle Scouts.