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Linda Keenan Headshot

Think The Boy Scout Decision Didn't Go Far Enough? Then Join Scouts TODAY

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I rejoined Cub Scouts in recent months after quitting in protest last year. At the same time, I joined the inclusive scouting movement, and I've been impressed by one gay Scout volunteer in particular. The near-term goal for most kids his age might be, how do I score a keg tonight? But I've been watching this kid for months carry out the unglamorous, unfashionably earnest and often uncomfortable work of activism. He is a walking advertisement for the value of Scouting. So when the ban on gay youth went down last night in Texas, his joy brought me to tears. And even more so was the thought that at least a few closeted gay teens probably went to sleep last night knowing that strangers somewhere out in America stood up for them, even if some of their own parents would not.

But others were less ebullient and with good reason. Heartfelt apologies go out to my many gay friends and neighbors personally insulted by the Boy Scouts vote yesterday to leave in place the ban on gay adults. It is a slap to Jennifer Tyrrell, the gay mom ousted a year ago, and the indomitable moms of Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls, who put aside their fears and joined Scouts in the 1990's at a far less hospitable time for gay people, let alone gay parents.

But I believe the only solution to winning that next victory, and yesterday was a victory, is for straight allies to put aside their distaste for this halfway-there measure, and flood the organization. If you can't stomach it, but still care about the issue, consider supporting inclusive scouting groups like Scouts for Equality.

As a liberal Cub Scout mom in true blue country, I was thoroughly naive about the issue until I dug in, and saw that in much of America, scouting is fully enmeshed with a church sponsor and its corresponding values. Once I plowed in, I saw that the vast majority of fierce opposition came from religious conservatives who believe, wrongly, that Scouts is an expressly Christian organization. I understand why they believe this: in their town, church and troop, it is expressly Christian. But that is not what Scouts is nationally. According to my son's Wolf handbook, there is certainly no mention of how or what deity I should worship.

If yesterday was not a victory, then why would hundreds of people be posting outraged comments on the Boy Scout Facebook page last night, like this one:

I am done. This is an example of cowardice and bowing to less than 3% of the population. It reflects the opposite of reverent. It reflects the opposite of "Doing my duty to God." BSA, you have turned your back on principle and surrendered to compromise. This is the worst message you could convey to the young men in this organization. As for me, I am cancelling my membership .... and moving on.
32 minutes ago • Like • 14

I've been following these comments for months, and many of them echo the last-gasp fury of civil-rights era Segregationists. Even the depiction of gay men as hyper-sexual menaces (and that baseless slander is everywhere) is reminiscent of how black men were portrayed in segregation years.

Can you tell the difference here between some of the parents on that Facebook page, and infamous segregationist George Wallace? Don't feel badly, my husband flunked too.

1. "I have a problem with them forcing their way in....where they are clearly not wanted."
2. "[This is an] unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted ... intrusion."
3. "We are part of an elite heritage and should be proud. Do not feel that you must conform."

4. "The so-called 'progressives' tell us that our Constitution was written for 'horse and buggy' days . . . so were the Ten Commandments. It is the 'changing world'. . . it is called 'new' and 'liberal'.....it is degenerate..."

5. It tramples on just over 100 years of traditional values and faithful practice of them."

6. "If we amalgamate into the one unit as advocated . . . the freedom for our development . . . is gone forever."

Answers: 1. Parent 2. Wallace. 3. Parent 4. Wallace 5. Parent 6. Wallace

My point in highlighting these comments is that a hardened core of religiously conservative Scouting parents is never going to be won over. While some will leave, the rest, along with their less vocal sympathizers, will still likely outnumber the straight allies on the issue of adults. That's why I urge fair-minded parents to consider joining. As a liberal I find so much to like about Scouts. It fosters a love of conservation and the outdoors, even in me who used to define camping as anything that took me more than 5 miles from a Starbucks. It emphasizes public service. It is explicitly anti-consumerist - A Scout is Thrifty! It encourages discipline and family discussions about courage, which in my house meant having my son watch black students harrassed as they tried to desegregate the South.

I returned to Scouts after realizing that by quitting, I had done exactly as that hardened core, which doesn't have stranglehold on my local area, wanted: to purge gays and straight allies of the organization. We never would have gotten to yesterday's victory were it not for gay parents who insisted on a place around the campfire for their children in this iconic and worthy youth program, most notably ousted Cub Scout mom Jennifer Tyrrell, and the moms of Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls. Now it is time to give them their rightful place as well. But there aren't enough gay parents to do it themselves. Consider joining the group or at least the movement, and making the fears of that minority of modern-day Wallaces a full-on reality. Many of them derided yesterday's decision as a slippery slope towards full inclusion. Let's grease the wheels. My son has his Pinewood Derby car all ready to go.