BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Possible changes in the policy - such as a proposal to allow sponsors of local troops to decide for themselves on gay membership - will not be voted on until the organization's annual meeting in May, the national executive board said at the conclusion of closed-door deliberations, reports The Associated Press.
Since the Boy Scouts announced last week it was considering a policy change, the American institution has been under intense pressure from both conservatives and gay-rights advocates.
Following today's announcement, gay advocates including Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, the son of two lesbians, derided the Scouts.
"By postponing this decision, the BSA has caved to those who argue that their anti-gay attitudes trump basic Scouting values of kindness, courtesy and bravery," Wahls said in a news release from GLAAD and Scouts for Equality. "Scouting was built on a foundation of respect and dignity. Today, the BSA cracked that foundation."
"A scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave today," said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian ousted as leader of her son's Cub Scout Pack in April 2012. "The Boy Scouts had the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents, but they've failed us yet again. No parent should have to loo their child in the eye and explain that the Boy Scouts don't want us. Our fight will continue and we will continue to educate donors and supporters of the Boy Scouts about the effects of their anti-gay policy.”
“Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delay action is another day that discrimination prevails,” said Chad Griffin, president of HRC, Human Rights Campaign. “Now is the time for action. Young Americans, gay and straight, are hurt by the inaction associated with today’s news. The BSA leadership should end this awful policy once and for all, and open the proud tradition of Scouting to all.”
Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said his group was "encouraged" by the delayed decision.
"The leaders of the Boy Scouts were wise not to abandon their longstanding national membership standards, as they were reportedly on the brink of doing. We thank the Scout parents and members of the public who responded to these reports with an overwhelming outpouring of support for maintaining the Scouts' timeless values that have served the Scouts and the nation well for 103 years.
"However, it is not enough that they postpone a decision. Instead, the BSA board should publicly re-affirm their current standards, as they did just last July. We look forward to continuing to work with scouting parents, leaders of the faith-based organizations that charter over two-thirds of the packs and the troops. We will also continue to communicate with the Scout leadership about the grave consequences that would result if they were to compromise their moral standards in the face of threats from corporate elites and homosexual activists."
Earlier this week, the Miami Herald's Public Insight Network asked readers for their opinions. Here are a few of the many response:
Q: Should the Boy Scouts of America lift its ban on gay members? Tell us why or why not.
- Yes, as a Gay Eagle Scout I can't believe this is an issue. Scouts is about tolerance not uneducated hate. -- Craig Urquhart, New York City
- No, if I have a son I don't want to think of the chaperone being attracted to him or having the boys being on guard amongst themselves against being lusted/looked at or checked out or hit on by someone who is wanting that kind of relationship with him. I think there are places guys need to be relaxed and not on guard and I think guy's clubs are one of those places. -- Stephen Wallington, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
- The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have always been the pinnacle of moral character, teaching young men to do their duty to God and country. They must stay true to their timeless values and not surrender to financial or political pressure on the issue of homosexuality.a policy change would be a grave mistake and, every American who believes in freedom of thought and religious liberty should be alarmed by the attacks upon the Boy Scouts whose oath includes that members should be "morally straight." To compromise moral principles under political and financial pressure would teach the boys cowardice, not courage. -- Ed Sharib, Natick, Mass.
- I do not want my son to spend the night with any adult male who was attracted to men. If some people think that is o.k.,then let them for their own organization that supports homosexual men spending the night with boys in their charge. -- James Twine, Miami
- They are part of an international organization which does not discriminate against gays or lesbians. Scoutmasters and their assistants should have background checks for an affinity for adult-child sex. -- Josh Marder, Indiantown
- No. Sexual orientation, and education, are not parts of the Scouting Program. never have been. Being Gay is about who you prefer to have sex with. Why do gay men need to tell everyone they are gay??? It is of no interest to scouting parents. yet the pushing of that agenda at all costs is curious at best. Prents of young boys do not want to have the sexual orientation of their scoutmaster or leaders as part of the program. Parents don't want to put their kids at risk of being the objects of sexual predators. By definintion, a gay man prefers sex with men. 98% of all sex crimes against children is comitted by men. by definition those pedophiles are homosexual or gay men whn they turn their focus to boys. The scouting program has sought to eliminate any possible hieghtened potential for improper predadation on thier sons. Telling the progarm you are gay lets all the parents know that you prefer men and boys to have sex w ith. That's not ok. -- John Somerville, Ventura, Calif.
- No, I do not feel any group should be forced into a change which is against its charter. -- Peter Chango, Seminole, Fla.
- Absolutely. If the BSA is to truly live up to the ideals of one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, then all American males must be allowed full membership rights. Anything less makes a mockery of Robert Baden-Powell's founding creed. -- Steven Rosenstein
- Most certainly. Gay kids need equality and equal opportunity for participation. As for scoutmasters, openly gay men are LESS likely to be pedophiles. Consider the kid who invests considerably time and energy into scouting without a clear sexual identity and then discovers that he is gay, does the past no longer matter? The right wing Christian organizations are positioning this as an issue of morality. It's utter nonsense that sends the wrong message to gay teens and their peers. -- David Hart, Miami Beach
- NO!! This has been at the core of the founding of the Boys Scouts. Moral upbringing is of outmost importance. The homosexual agenda has been trying for a while to intrude into the moral fiber of the Scouts. DO NOT LET THEM!! -- Jose Gonzalez, Miami
- Yes. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is abhorrent. Moreover, it's 2013! -- Jorge Sanchez, Miami.
- Yes, except for prejudice and old stereotypes about lesbian and gay people, there is no justification for the ban. Moreover lesbian and gay youth should have the opportunity to become scouts. -- Fred Fejes, Fort Lauderdale.
- Yes. It is not fair that they can't be a part of this American institution. -- Sue, Pinsley, Miami.
- Gay kids need every friend they can make scouts should bed a prime place where they find them. -- Wayne Morris, Clearwater.
- I support the current plan (as I understand it.) Strictly speaking, the change doesn't "lift a ban", but rather puts responsibility for handling this issue in the hands of the leadership of each local unit. This structure is consistent with other aspects of leader recruiting. Scout units are "chartered" by a wide variety of organizations with diverse views on this and many other issues. -- Brad Pritts, Ann Arbor, Mich.
- Yes, this is the land of the "right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is it not! If one of us suffers from in-equality, we all suffer! It's time to close the great divide and unite, it's time to make a difference rather than seeing differences. It's time for adults to be an example of true freedom! -- Sidney Andrews, Port St. Lucie
- Yes. Being gay is the way a percentage of the human population is, by nature. For those of us who honor a religious tradition, it is, therefore, a giftedness from God, a different gift, but a gift nevertheless. To discriminate against someone who is naturally different is no different from discriminating against left-handed people. -- Dale Truscott, Orlando.
- Let me answer it with a question: What possible difference does it make that Scouts allow gays in (or non-believers for that matter)? I expect that most boys at that age who may realize they are gay don't learn about it from scouting and all boys that age have lots of interest in learning about their bodies. It's a great forum for learning. Why should anyone care? Many Boy Scouts have go on to become Priests. Need I say more about that? I have four boys. I didn't think I raised them to be homophobic, but several are concerned about their children being in scouting. Not because of the boys, but because of the leaders. Leaders are a problem if they force themselves on the boys. If we make being gay and other sexual conversations less of a social taboo, boys will be more likely to talk about problems they have with their leaders (and Priests and teachers, etc.), which, I believe will make them (bad leaders who are also gay) less apt to become lea ders. So, should BSA lift the ban, yup and the ban on having to be a believer. Atheists should know how to build a fire and be a responsible citizen. -- John Deuterman, Jamestown, N.C.
- Absolutely. Scouting has adapted to the changing face of America by opening its ranks to boys from a diverse set of backgrounds. Homosexuality is no more contagious than black skin or Buddhism, so why would any organization wish to exclude potential members and leaders based on a criterion that really is a private matter. -- Judith Persons, Monticello, Fla.
- No. I know there are some gay members who have good intentions. Then there are others hiding behind good intentions. How can one know until something bad happens. My son was once in the boy scouts and there where some ugly discovers from acts done by gay members hiding behind good intentions. -- Sharon Welsch, Miami.
- Yes, gay scouts should be allowed. The name of the organization is BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA. The name of the organization is not Heterosexual Boy Scouts of America. Gay scouts are not predators. Having gay scouts as a member of a troop will allow all scouts in a troop to learn about other lifestyles, not just those of heterosexuals. -- Steve Weinstein, Milwaukee.
- The days of discriminating are over. All children can benefit from scouting and all adult volunteers can gain a great benefit also. We use to segregate. We used to disallow women to be adult leaders. It's time to open the program to all who wish to participate. -- Robert Burr, Coral Gables.
- Yes, the Boy Scouts of America should no longer ban gays and lesbians, as I do not believe that the practice is consistent with the articulated principles of the Boy Scouts of America or the World Organization of the Scouting Movement. -- Daniel Reck, Hinsdale, Ill.
- I am actually ambivalent about this issue. I completely disagree with the idea of discriminating against anyone based on heritage, religion, sexuality, skin color, etc. As long as people are law-abiding and not malicious I see no reason to exclude them from any activity they wish to involve themselves in (as long as said activity is not illegal, harmful, or malicious.
The problem is, the Boy Scouts, as far as I understand it, is a PRIVATE organization. And I really loathe the idea of telling ANY private organization who they should and should not allow in as members. But, I also know it is a very large organization and hear great stories of how so many young boys and men got so much out of their experience with the Boy Scouts that it pains me to think some people might be excluded from this. But on the other hand, it IS private. They do, for example, discriminate against girls (it is the BOY Scouts, after all) and I would never, ever say they should change that.
Oh, but on the other hand.... sigh. And that's the problem: there are so many sides and areas of gray.
So, in my humble opinion, yes, I believe the Boy Scouts should lift their ban on gay members but I do not believe it is my place, or the place of anyone who is not an actual member, to tell them so. -- Deb Ofsowitz, Orlando.
This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with The Miami Herald. Sign up by going to MiamiHerald.com/Insight.