It's time for Boy Scouts to end outdated ban on gays

Eagle Scout from South Florida pushes for change, as decision delayed until May

A decision on whether the Boy Scouts of America will keep its policy that excludes gay members and leaders will not be voted on until the organization's annual meeting in May.

Just when it looked like the Boy Scouts of America would finally join the 21st century and end its longstanding ban against gays, it punted on the issue.

Its executive board postponed a decision until May. Wednesday's inaction frustrated gay-rights activists and scouts pushing for change, and relieved traditionalists who like the status quo. As an Eagle Scout (Troop 521, Brooklyn, 1983) who got so much out of scouting, I'm disappointed that discrimination is allowed to stand. Even if only for a few more months.

"I think the overwhelming public response on both sides caught them by surprise, and they just want to be careful," said Justin Bickford, who became an Eagle Scout in 1995 with Troop 121 in Miramar and is now a leader of Scouts for Equality, a group with 3,813 Eagle Scouts that seeks to overturn the ban.

John Stemberger, president of the Orlando-based Florida Family Policy Council, said the delay gives traditionalists more time to get organized. "It's certainly a strategic victory for us," said Stemberger, an Eagle Scout and former scoutmaster who says allowing gays would lead to "an exodus" among scouts, parents and churches that sponsor troops.

Last week, news reports said the Boy Scouts were poised to end the national ban against gays as scouts, adult leaders and employees, while still allowing troops to set their own policies at the local level. That seemed a reasonable compromise, a way to placate the powerful Mormon and Catholic churches, which sponsor many troops.

"It wouldn't be totally satisfying, but it would be a tremendous step forward," said Bickford, 33, a molecular biologist in Gainseville. Like the three other directors of Scouts for Equality, Bickford is straight. "For many of us, this is quite simply an issue of discrimination," he said.

The U.S. military has ended its ban against gays, and other youth groups such as the Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs of America allow gays as volunteers and leaders. But the Boy Scouts have been reluctant to change. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld its ban in 2000 on first amendment grounds.

The issue keeps getting bigger. President Obama told CBS News last week that the Boy Scouts should be open to all. As the executive board met near Dallas this week, petitions and letters from both sides flooded the organization.

To me, scouting is not about sex, so sexuality should be irrelevant. Scouting was about learning life skills, leadership, discipline. It provided an outlet to camp, hike and explore nature.

I get offended when people conflate the issue of gay participation with the separate issues of sexual abuse or pedophilia. Sexual assault is a crime, and adult scout leaders who break laws — whether they identify as straight or gay — need to be rooted out and prosecuted.

Stemberger frets about "loud and proud" gay men "kissing and snuggling around the campfire in front of young boys." That strikes me as alarmist, playing into stereotypes that gays are sex fiends who can't behave appropriately or be trusted around kids. Please, let's grow up.

Maybe by May, the Boy Scouts finally will.

mmayo@tribune.com or 954-356-4508

Advertisement
Commenting Policy »

Facebook comments are not regularly monitored by Huntington Beach Independent staff. If you believe a comment violates any of the below rules, please email Editor John Canalis at john.canalis@latimes.com and Web Editor Kelly Parker at kelly.parker@latimes.com. We will review and remove offending comments during working hours, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.


The Independent reserves the right to remove, block or refuse any comment for any reason. When posting to HBIndependent.com, you agree to not provide comments that:


  • * are posted using false or fake names.

  • * contain vulgar, profane, abusive, racist or hateful language or expressions, epithets or slurs, text, photographs or illustrations in poor taste, inflammatory attacks of a personal, racial or religious nature.

  • * are defamatory, threatening, disparaging, grossly inflammatory, false, misleading, fraudulent, inaccurate, unfair, contains gross exaggeration or unsubstantiated claims, violate the privacy rights of any third party, are unreasonably harmful or offensive to any individual or community.

  • * discriminate on the grounds of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation or disability, or refer to such matters in any manner prohibited by law.

  • * "flame" any individual or entity (e.g., sends repeated messages related to another user and/or make derogatory or offensive comments about another individual), or repeat prior posting of the same message under multiple threads or subjects.

  • * violate or encourage the violation of any municipal, state, federal or international law, rule, regulation or ordinance.

  • * advertise, promote or offer to trade any goods or services, except in areas specifically designated for such purpose.

  • *contain copyrighted or other proprietary material of any kind without the express permission of the owner of that material.

  • * violate any right of hbindependent.com or any third party.

  • * upload or transmit viruses or other harmful, disruptive or destructive files, material or code.