With the announcement after a two-year review that it would continue to exclude gay scouts and gay and lesbian scout leaders, the Boy Scouts of America has decided to continue sending a devastating and dangerous message to young people across America: keep gays away because they are not like the rest of us.
It's devastating and dangerous because it comes at a time when we've seen escalating reports of young people, some as young as 7, taking their own lives, suicides by gay kids often victimized and brutalized by bullies. The bullies do it because they've been told that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are worthless and should be shunned.
And who is telling the bullies to shun "avowed homosexuals" or those they perceive to be? Well as of yesterday, once again, none other than the Boy Scouts of America, which said it would continue to ban "open or avowed" gays. By deciding after a two-year secretive review of an 11-member committee -- a committee so cowardly that the names of those on it have been kept confidential -- that it would continue to discriminate, the Boy Scouts tells young Americans that no one should accept gay people. If gays shouldn't be allowed in the Boy Scouts, after all, why should they be allowed in your school or in your neighborhood?
Activist Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout whose two moms are lesbians, and Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mother from Ohio who was forced out as a den leader, had brought renewed attention to the injustice of the policy in recent months. "We've heard this line before, and I'm sure they'll keep saying this until the day they decide to change the policy," Wahls said in a statement. "We know where this is headed."
But until that time, how many more kids will feel the stigma the Boy Scouts helps perpetuate? The statement from the BSA is breathtaking in its callousness, and by claiming that it allowed for diverse viewpoints but that continuing the ban was ultimately decided upon by "unanimous consent," the BSA did further damage by insinuating that even those who support gays think it's best to keep them out:
The committee included a diversity of perspectives and opinions.The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations -- both from within Scouting and from outside the organization. The committee's work and conclusion is that this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA's members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth.
The BSA's argument is that the majority of its members believe in such discrimination, therefore it must continue to discriminate. What does that tell young people all across America? That bullying is fine -- and yes, what the Boy Scouts is engaging in is institutionalized bullying -- as long as the majority is down with it.
The Boy Scouts had a chance to redeem itself, but it should now be considered an enemy of civil rights and a reckless organization whose actions are furthering bullying and discrimination in America. Any parents in good conscious must realize what they are a party to by enrolling their kids in an organization whose policies would help drive the hostility and violence that gay kids experience every day in this country. And any corporation or organization that associates with the Boy Scouts must be made to realize the ugliness it is party to as well.