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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Progress in Boy Scouts underwhelms

Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates lit up the Internet on May 21 when he announced at an annual meeting in Atlanta that the BSA should no longer strictly prohibit openly gay troop leaders from participating in the organization. If his announcement struck you as somewhat vague, then you’re among the number of Americans who have already noted how little this new stance will actually affect scouts throughout the country.

Gates’ statement rivals “Midnight Rider” director Randall Miller’s guilty March plea for biggest “Sorry not sorry” of the year, essentially acquiescing that it would probably be a good PR move for the BSA to begin accepting gay troop leaders, but reasserting that homosexuality is still definitely a sin, and if any troop wants to continue to discriminate against gay leaders, then they totally still can. This new stance does nothing to alter any of the Membership Standards Resolution, amounting to nothing more than an “I suppose,” followed by a “but we don’t have to like it.”

Such a tepid step toward real equality is especially disappointing after the Jan. 1, 2014 resolution allowing gay scouts to participate in the organization. That standard minced few words, explicitly stating, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” Of course, even that measure becomes problematic when a gay scout comes of age and wishes to pursue a leadership position within a troop. Such a system fosters the idea that non-normative sexualities and identities are something to grow out of, childhood indulgences that must be overcome in order to take on adult responsibilities.

Another problematic facet of this law lies in the question of whether gay scouts would feel as comfortable joining a troop that has no gay scoutmasters. Perhaps the most famous rejection of a gay scout leader occurred in March 2014, when Troop 98 of Rainier Beach, Seattle, had its membership revoked for its refusal to dismiss gay scoutmaster Geoff McGrath. That charter, held by Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, was one of the only officially sanctioned BSA charters awarded to a church that performs same-sex marriages. It’s certainly difficult to imagine any homosexual students feeling comfortable with an organization that so aggressively combats diversity within its ranks.

All of this is to say nothing of the exceptionally problematic language in the BSA “Membership Standards Resolution,” which declares, “Any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of a Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting…” It would seem that the BSA is not content with creating feelings of self-loathing in homosexual boys alone, but additionally aim to repress the sexual desires of all members, regardless of orientation.

Gates is perhaps undeserving of the entirety of the gay community’s wrath, his questionable wording on May 21 possibly just an attempt to appease scout members on both sides of the argument. Gates’ gay rights record during his time as Secretary of Defense is well known, with one of his more popular actions being his involvement in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Whether this new push by Gates, which has so far met with as much controversy as praise, will lead to lasting change remains to be seen. Perhaps the most disturbing quote from Gates’ announcement was, “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.” Despite calls for diversity, it would seem that BSA leadership continues to desire a world as uniform as their khaki button-ups and green cargo pants. 

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