I was disappointed to see that, consistent with its strange new policy of allowing openly gay youth while excluding openly gay adults, the Boy Scouts of America recently dismissed an openly gay Scout leader in Seattle, 49-year-old Eagle Scout Geoffrey McGrath.
Reading through stories this past week about the discriminatory decision, I was also dismayed (but not surprised) to see that the Scouts still misrepresent their policy by trying to make it sound like a neutral policy against discussing “sexual orientation” instead of a discriminatory policy against gay and bisexual people.
False Claims About the Scouts’ Policies on Sexual Orientation
As reported by the New York Times and other sources, the BSA’s director of public relations, Deron Smith, defended the revocation of McGrath’s membership, saying, “We [the Boy Scouts] don’t believe the topic of sexual orientation has a role in scouting, and it is not discussed unless it is deliberately injected into scouting.“
Is this true? That is, do the Scouts refrain from mentioning or discussing sexual orientation? Nope.
The Scouts only take issue with same-sex sexual orientation, as anybody who follows this issue already knows. When they claim that they don’t want people to “inject” issues of “sexual orientation” into scouting, they are either forgetting that heterosexuals have a sexual orientation, or they are forgetting that the organization routinely mentions and discusses (and allows discussion of) heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships, or they are purposefully trying to mislead the public by making it sound like they have a neutral policy against discussing “sexual orientation” as opposed to a discriminatory policy against gays and bisexuals. Given how much the BSA leadership has worked to frame its messaging on this issue, the last of these three possibilities seems the most likely.
But whatever the explanation, their claims about not discussing “sexual orientation” are false.
Examples: Flaunting Heterosexuality
Even a cursory review of BSA materials reveals that the organization routinely brings up heterosexual sexual orientation and different-sex love, and that it allows its members to do so. On one page on the BSA’s official website, for example, an adult Scout volunteer named Nathan Rosenberg publicly declares that he is “madly in love with [his] wife.” Why do the Scouts allow this militant heterosexual to flaunt his sexuality on the Scout’s official site? Why must Mr. Rosenberg “shove it down our throats,” to borrow a phrase commonly used by anti-gay commentators?
Another page on the BSA site mentions (as of today, anyway) the story of an 18-year-old Scout on the South Side of Chicago who recently received a Boy Scout award for heroically shielding his “girlfriend” from bullets. Are the Scouts concerned that this adult member of the organization publicly admitted to a heterosexual relationship? Why isn’t this an example of “injecting” sexual orientation into scouting?
The BSA also routinely discloses the heterosexual nature of its adult members’ marriages. A quick search on the BSA website uncovers statements referring to the wives of BSA leaders and adult volunteers such as Dr. Robert M. Gates, Wayne Perry, Wayne Brock, Tico Perez, Bradley D. Farmer, Dan Ownby, Jim Terry, Tim Adams, Jeff Kearney, and many others. If sexual orientation isn’t an appropriate topic in scouting, wouldn’t it have been better to refer to these leaders’ and volunteers’ “spouses” without specifying the gender?
The obvious explanation for all of this: Nobody takes issue with these references to heterosexuality and heterosexual love because the supposed BSA policy against discussing “sexual orientation” is really just a policy about silencing and discriminating against gay and bisexual people.
Boy Scouts, please stop pretending otherwise.