I have always been ambivalent about the Boy Scouts of America. The programs are tremendous. Boys learn a lot and have a ton of fun.
But… the Boy Scouts have traditionally told its members that gay men and boys, ranging from 10% to 20% of the US male population, is not welcome. While not openly criticizing gays, the Boys Scouts’ message has been clear: gays are bad and need to be kept away from “normal” boys, for the health of the “normal” boys.
I was a Boy Scout. Both of my sons were Boy Scouts. One of them earned his Eagle. Early in their scouting careers, I talked to them about this. I bluntly told them that they should certainly enjoy scouting but needed to be aware of this one piece and that I thought it was wrong. I told them that all men and all boys are people and deserve to be welcomed and appreciated, regardless of their sexual preferences.
Now the Boy Scouts is considering a shift in policy at the national level only. If adopted, it would be up to the local scouting organizations to decide whether to accept or reject gay men and boys.
I applaud the Boy Scouts of America for finally, openly considering a shift to be more inclusive. Sexual contact between Boy Scouts, and between the boys and the Boy Scout leaders is, and has been, illegal and against BSA rules, regardless of sexual orientation. Dropping this ban will have no effect on the scouting program.
And… I believe that the Boy Scouts of America needs to do more than adopt a national policy, leaving the local organizations to determine for themselves whether to follow suit or whether to continue to ban gays. I believe that the BSA needs to bluntly state that all men and all boys are welcome, regardless of sexual orientation; just as all are welcome regardless of skin color or religious preference. BSA needs to actively push that policy down to all of its troops, packs, and local organizations.
Some sponsoring groups, such as the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, may choose to discontinue supporting BSA organizations because of this decision. That is, of course, their right. It is important to realize, however, that a Boy Scout troop or a Cub Scout pack is a distinct organization from its sponsor. The troop or pack is not a part of the Catholic Church or a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The local scouting organizations can, and should, operate under their own set of rules and guidelines.
It is time to stop treating gay men and boys as infectious carriers of a contagious disease. There have always been gay Boys Scouts and Boy Scout leaders. There always will be.