On May 21st Dr. Robert Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts of America and former secretary of defense announced that the Boy Scouts of America will not punish local boy scout councils who allow openly gay men and women to serve as volunteers and employees.
This announcement is a big step forward for the Boy Scouts who only recently opened the doors to allow gay youth to join. This is a 180-degree change from last year when Dr. Gates said he didn’t want to re-ignite the issue during his two year term as president of the BSA.
This isn’t over until it’s over, and the BSA needs to tear off the band-aid and fully end its ban on gay leaders and employees. Given that gates said they won’t revoke council charters; now is the time for local councils to take action and adopt their own inclusion policies.
The Chief Seattle Council, of the BSA has the opportunity to be a leader and set the example for other scouting councils across the country. Seattle has always been a leader when it comes to LGBT rights. The Chief Seattle Council can choose to be a part of Seattle’s good LGBT track record or they can continue to be a part of the problem.
I am an Eagle Scout myself. I am also a Scoutmaster, and I happen to be gay. I was awarded Scoutmaster of the year by my district in 2014, but if my local council knew that I am gay I would no longer be allowed to serve which is why I write this in anonymity. I am committed to serving the youth in my troop and for that reason I cannot be honest about who I am.
The BSA’s discriminatory policy is a double standard that needs to come to an end as was recognized when Dr. Gates said the existing policy in “unsustainable.” As a scout leader I have to think about what this policy says to our youth. What does it say when we allow an openly gay scout to earn the rank of Eagle Scout (scouting’s highest honor) but as soon as that Eagle Scout turns 18 they are no longer fit to serve the very organization who gave so much to them.
There is a line in the Eagle Scout Charge where Eagle Scouts promise to give back to scouting what scouting gave to them. The existing policy does not allow all scouts to do this. I’m doing my best to give back to scouting, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so when I have to hide part of my life. It’s hard to lead effectively when you have one foot stuck in the closet.
The Boy Scouts of America must change if the organization wants to remain relevant. The Boy Scouts is an organization based on a core set of values found in the scout law.
“A Scout is
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly
Courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful
Thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent”
It’s about time the BSA follows its own rules and allow LGBT leaders to serve. I’m calling on the Chief Seattle Council of the BSA to be a leader and adopt its own inclusion policy for the sake of the youth the program serves. After all it is the Cub Scout Motto to “Do your best.” Is the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts really living up to that?