The Boy Scouts of America will lift its ban on gay leaders on Monday, bowing to public pressure and changing societal attitudes toward the LGBTQ community, the New York Times is reporting.
The move is something of a compromise in that it will still allow faith-based organizations that sponsor Boy Scout troops — such as Catholic or evangelical Christian churches — to continue to exclude gay leaders in accordance with the tenets of their faith, says Michael Harrison, one of the activists who pushed for the new policy.
“There are differences of opinion, and we need to be respectful of them. [The new policy] doesn’t mean the Mormons have to pick a gay scoutmaster, but please don’t tell the Unitarians they can’t.”
The issue of allowing gays within the organization has been a thorn in the side of the Boy Scouts for several years. As changing attitudes toward gays (as well as multiple lawsuits, and the threats of multiple others) put pressure on the organization to get with the times, conservative groups had long hoped that the organization would continue its ban on gays, and remain something of a beacon of “traditional” values.
In 2000, the Boy Scouts achieved a victory in their battle to be allowed to exclude gays when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts had the right to remove a gay scoutmaster. However, the case brought bad publicity to the organization, and the Scouts’ membership began declining, and several of its corporate sponsors jumped ship.
The reason for the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay leaders — and, until 2013, gay youths — was, at the very least, based on outdated views about masculinity and homosexuality, says Chicago Tribune writer David Rutter.
“The youth organization’s antagonism to gays — including gay teens in their ranks before 2013 — was not accidental. It was built on an underlying, resilient prejudice that gayness created an inferior brand of male. Stripped of euphemisms, that was a founding concept. At its heart, scouting’s ban viewed gay adults as potential pedophiles, even closeted gay scouts who became Eagle Scouts as teens and then were barred from contributing as adults. In fact, multiple studies have shown that pedophilia is virtually unconnected to sexual orientation. Pedophiles are regressed, damaged, control-seeking personalities drawn to vulnerability.”
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[Image courtesy of: Getty Images / Tom Pennington]