Ever since the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced last summer that it would not be changing its policy prohibiting gay Scouts and Scout leaders, conservatives have rallied to defend the organizations “core value” of anti-gay discrimination. This effort seemed to explode over the past week, with social conservative talking heads desperately pleading with BSA to hold fast to that policy, lest it create a not-so-ambiguous safety concern for Scouts. Perhaps more than any other recent issue impact gays and lesbians — repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” marriage equality, or the Chick-fil-A controversy, how social conservatives’ discuss the BSA policy reveals the depth of their anti-gay animus and the foundation of lies they perpetuate in their agenda against LGBT equality.
Though BSA refused to share any of the details of the two-year review that resulted in keeping the policy, plenty of conservatives voices have attempted to make the case on behalf of the organization, including Mike Huckabee, Bill O’Reilly, Rick Perry, the Family Research Council, the Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage, and the Southern Baptist Convention, to name a few. While some have made weak appeals to “traditional values,” the overwhelming argument against changing the policy has been a claim that Scouts will be more vulnerable to abuse if gays are allowed to participate in the organization, an argument that doesn’t even address the question of gay Scouts. Here is a sampling of the underlying assumptions about gay people that inform this point of view:
- The LGBT community is viewed entirely as adult gay men.
- The only aspect of a person that defines a gay identity is participation in same-sex sexual behavior.
- Nothing is apparently more important to gay men than having as much sex as possible and talking about it at all times.
- For gay men, there is no difference between being attracted to other adult gay men and being attracted to underage boys.
- Gay men are so obsessed with having sex that consent means nothing to them.
- Even though the men most commonly found abusing boys identify as heterosexual, the fact that their victims were boys means that they must be secretly gay, as opposed to just being pedophiles.
- It’s impossible for a child to learn that gay people even exist without becoming “sexualized” and somehow put at risk.
- So long as homosexuality is prohibited, all Boy Scouts will remain totally chaste and never think, learn about, or talk about the existence of sex.
This line of thinking proves that conservatives have learned nothing about gays and lesbians in decades. Any of these assumptions can and have been debunked not only by social science but by simply the mainstream visibility of the gay community. Nevertheless, conservatives continue to see gays as mentally ill, sex-obsessed, child-abusing sinners who do not deserve an equal place in society. This is what they believe when they argue against marriage equality (e.g. gays are too sex-obsessed to commit to monogamy), same-sex adoption (e.g. children fare worse with same-sex parents), or military service (e.g. straight soldiers won’t serve as effectively if gay troops are hitting on them). And though these issues mostly impact people who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual, many of the same negative stereotypes are similarly applied to transgender people, such as the claim that allowing them to use the same bathroom with which they identity would endanger children.
As GLAAD’s Commentator Accountability Project has revealed, conservative talking heads often sugarcoat their anti-gay messaging when speaking to mainstream media, but the BSA policy has been the exception. Under the guise of arguments defending “religious freedom,” it’s clear that social conservatives maintain a warped view of the gay community and are intent on promulgating that view. It is an agenda that has nothing to do with protecting children, families, or “values,” but that is designed specifically to defame and stigmatize the gay community, encouraging people to doubt and fear them through the guise of religious faith. Fortunately, people across the country are learning to see through this hateful charade and support the full inclusion of their LGBT friends and family in every aspect of society.