I want to start this off with I am an Eagle Scout out of the Atlanta Area Council (Class of 2005) and my Dad is an Eagle Scout out of the Great Smoky Mountain Council (Class of 1970) and his dad was a Scoutmaster. So, Scouting is a bit of a family tradition.
On Thursday 23 May 2013, 103 years 3 months and 15 days after its founding, the Boy Scouts of America have voted to repeal their membership ban on gay youth. However, this is only a small step in the right direction.
Over the last few months there had been a lot of discussion about gays and the BSA. It all started with the CEO of AT&T and a couple of others on the National Board. The National Council then decided to punt the issue to the National Meeting. This gave them time to do the market research and find out the thoughts of many current and past members, parents, and even nonmembers. (It wasn’t a bad survey either. Much better than those that went out before the GAGOP convention.)
After the surveys, the question for the national meeting was whittled down to only cover the membership restriction on gay youth, and left out entirely the question of gay leaders.
This vote carries many consequences, both good and some not so good. To quote a friend of mine “The National Council of the Boy Scouts has decided to declare what we already knew; Scouting is for all young men.” The opportunities in Scouting should never have been kept away for such a silly reason.
Because a youth is gay does not imply that they are any less Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean or Reverent. It also does not impede their ability to do a good turn daily, or be prepared.
Starting 1 January 2014 gay youth will be able to enjoy the same program and have the same opportunity of character growth and leadership development as Gerald Ford, Steven Spielberg, Robert Gates and Neil Armstrong.
However, I very much disagree with Kyle Wingfield. Where this vote has failed is what happens when these kids turn 18 and become adults. They are treated like a cancer and removed, just as they have been for years.
After a youth has defined himself by the Scouting movement, and he has been able to flourish in the program, he is told that he cannot give back. He cannot continue to make Scouting a better program. If he is an Eagle Scout, he will not be able to fulfill his oath.
But, all that is different is that he is a day older. He was gay before as a youth, but because he is still gay on his 18th birthday, he can no longer be involved in the program that helped make him the man he has become.
While we have made a small step forward as an organization, we have still failed. And that is shameful.
I have known many gay Scouts, and many gay Eagle Scouts. Just because one three letter word can be used to describe one aspect of their life, does not mean that they are incapable of being a proper role model. I think one of my mentors in Scouting did a damn fine job.