The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have been criticized publicly for the anti-gay policy that forbids openly gay scouts and troop leaders from serving. Several major backers of the organization – including several Fortune 500 companies – have even dropped their support over the discriminatory guidelines.
More than one million people have joined Change.org petition campaigns in the past two years. Two Boy Scout board members – AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley – have also denounced the anti-gay policy. GLAAD, together with former Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality Zach Wahls, have also used Change.org petitions to pressure corporate donors, such as Intel and UPS, to pull funding until the Boy Scouts end their policy banning gay youth and parents.
Last fall, a Bay Area mother named Karen Andresen petitioned her local Boy Scout council to honor her son Ryan with an Eagle Award that was denied to him when the Scout came out as gay. An official Eagle Board Board of Review unanimously approved Ryan’s application for Eagle, but a Boy Scout executive ultimately rejected his application.
But this week, the BSA released an official statement that suggests they could be rethinking the ban. Here’s what BSA spokesperson Deron Smith said:
“For more than 100 years, Scouting’s focus has been on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.
Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.
The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”
It’s believed that a final decision could be announced as early as next week as more organizations lend their support to change this homophobic policy. At this point, though, it’s being predicted that individual divisions will be able to decide whether to lift or enforce the ban, though LGBT organizations like GLAAD are hoping that ban is lifted nationally.
“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” says GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect.”
Wahls, who has worked tirelessly to overturn the ban – he even rejected his own Eagle Scout medal, along with thousands of other scouts in protest – is also hoping that the BSA rethinks how it deals with gay members and leaders. “This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,” says Wahls, a former Eagle Scout who revoked his membership over the gay ban. “We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in Scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well.”