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5 Reasons the Boy Scouts of America's Decision Is Nothing to Applaud

05/30/2013 10:24 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
  • Andrea Bonior Psychologist, Professor, Author of The Friendship Fix
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The Boy Scouts of America recently voted to end their ban on gay scouts, but will keep in place a prohibition on "avowed" gay adults serving as troop leaders, staffers or volunteers. Obviously intended as a compromise, this half-action (or perhaps half-assed-action) has probably incensed people on both ends of the spectrum. Here's why progressives should be disappointed:

1. It Strengthens the Misconception That "Gay" Equals "Child-Molester."

There's no way this can be ignored, as it is perhaps the most insidious and hateful aspect of the Boy Scouts of America's decision. A serious step backwards for civil rights and, for that matter, informed public opinion (and science education!), this decision tacitly supports the misguided thinking that same-sex attraction makes someone a likely child predator. This is a significant obstacle to gay rights in the court of public opinion, especially for gay men. Despite the BSA's supposed awareness that there is no evidence that being gay puts someone at an elevated risk of being sexually attracted to children or abusing them, there is simply no other way to justify the BSA's decision than with the misinformed and bigoted notion that gay men are dangerous.

2. It Separates Families.

While some people have hailed the decision to allow gay scouts in to the BSA, what about the scouts -- whether gay or straight -- whose parents are still told they're too flawed to have a role in this part of their child's life? "Sure, Aidan, you can be a scout, but your Mom? We don't want her kind." Lovely. It's bad enough to tell gay kids that they are not created equal. But telling kids of gay parents that their Moms and Dads are still deemed unequal does very similar damage.

3. There's a Gaping Logistical Hole.

If scouts are allowed to be gay, but troop leaders are not, at what point do they get kicked out? Long-range strategy was clearly not the policy makers' strong point. Will they now let in an openly gay 17 year-old scout, only to tell him his role in the organization will have to diminish once his birthday rolls around? As a technical policy, this seems about as straightforward, clear, and logical as your average piece of tax legislation.

4. It Reeks of Greed.

Allowing gay scouts to join while treating gay parents like second-class citizens comes dangerously close to appearing like desperate, revenue-driven hypocrisy. "Sure, let 'em in to pay dues," this policy arguably says. "But once they can no longer be scouts and help our numbers and our revenue, kick them to the curb and let them know how we really feel about them." One of the hallmarks of the Boy Scouts of America is character development and trustworthiness. How can you let a scout work for a decade on these values, but then tell him by virtue of becoming an adult, he doesn't measure up anymore?

5. It's Back to Square One.

If this supposed landmark decision was supposed to mean anything about tolerance or civil rights, or to somehow be taking a stance against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it has failed miserably. As long as the BSA is still unapologetically discriminating against gay adults, it deserves not one second of applause from those concerned about human rights. Is it better to let gay children in to the Boy Scouts than keep them banned? Arguably. But doing so in such a backhanded, hypocritical, and convoluted manner makes it feel as though nothing has actually changed.

Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., is the author of The Friendship Fix and the longtime writer of Baggage Check, the mental health advice column in the Washington Post Express.