[Updated July 28]
The Boy Scouts of America has ended its national ban on gay Scout leaders, though the new policy has a controversial religious exemption.
As the New York Times and others report, the policy change to allow gay (and presumably bisexual) leaders appears to have been driven largely by the fear of losing lawsuits, which is too bad. (It would have been nicer for the Scouts to act based on a realization—and admission—that their policy inflicted terrible harm.) But it’s still a victory for gay Scout leaders, for the youth they serve, and for the organization.
It’s not a complete win, though, as there is a provision allowing local leaders to bar gay adults from Scouting based on local leaders’ religious beliefs. The religious provision is not a huge hit among influential people on both sides of the debate. Some Mormon leaders, for example, are apparently angry with the new policy despite the religious exemptions, and the Mormon Church may reconsider its long and close relationship with the organization.
Some LGBT equality advocates aren’t thrilled either, including Michelangelo Signorile, who has previously opposed incremental changes to BSA policy on gays and who now writes that the policy’s religious provision creates a “dangerous precedent.“
So the debate continues. Stayed tuned.
Some prior Youth Allies commentary on the Scouts includes:
- Boy Scouts Contradict Their Own Handbook in Defending Anti-Gay Policy (2014)
- What the Boy Scouts (Pretend to) Forget: Heterosexuals Have a Sexual Orientation Too (2014)
- Is the Boy Scouts’ New Policy Worse than the Old? Some Say Yes; I Say No (2013)
- The Anti-Gay Policy that Dare not Speak its Name (or, an Exercise in Insulting the Reader) (2012)