On May 23-24, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America will hold a meeting in suburban Dallas to decide, among other things, whether to rescind its rule against adult leaders who happen to be gay. We believe this is the BSA's last chance to resolve this issue on its own terms. As experienced Scout leaders in our respective troops, we urge the council to drop the ban.
The simple fact is that times have changed. It is no longer acceptable in the United States to judge a person on his or her nature rather than on his or her actions.
Supporters of the ban give two reasons: that gay men are natural predators of young boys; and that gay men are not suitable role models for boys. We believe that both of these arguments are false.
There is no evidence that gay men are more predatory than other men. Experts recently consulted by BSA reported that "The nearly universal opinion among sexual abuse authorities is that same-sex sexual interest or same-sex sexual experience, either in adults or youth, is NOT a risk factor for sexually abusing children." It is simply prejudice to believe that a gay person, as such, is inclined to be a predator.
Secondly, we believe that gay men and women can model leadership as well as anyone else. The example of the gay people who have given their lives for their country in Afghanistan, Iraq, and many battlefields before, should put this prejudice to rest.
BSA is the only major youth organization to have a stated policy banning gay leaders. The Girl Scouts of America, the Little League, the Future Farmers of America, and many others, do not have such a ban. The U.S. military has done away with it. Most major corporations, associations, other business entities, and the U.S. government proclaim their commitment to fair treatment regardless of sexual orientation. It is just us who cling to this discriminatory policy.
BSA's isolated position is made by clear by its own survey of 30 national government, foundation, and community organizations that serve youth, many of which are "strategic partners" of BSA. They were asked if they supported the policy or wanted to see a change. Twenty-eight called for change. They warned that it would be "very difficult" for them to continue to work with Boy Scouting "because of the exclusion of youth and lack of diversity in the BSA." (See here for details on the BSA survey.)
Many of the local councils in the country, especially in the Northeast, are also calling for change. Trying to keep the policy will probably cause more disruption in the Scouting family than getting rid of it.
The test should be not orientation or attraction, but behavior. Does an adult volunteer behave himself or herself in a manner that is conducive to the growth and development and advancement of the boys in the unit? If so, he or she is an asset; if not, he or she is a liability.
BSA has a strong and effective program of Youth Protection. It is the responsibility of every unit and every sponsoring organization to implement and enforce this program. It is also their responsibility to manage adult leaders, which they can do very effectively without the burden of a discriminatory national rule.
Every Boy Scout memorizes the Scout Oath, which requires him to be "morally straight." The Boy Scout Handbook says this means, among other things, that he should "respect and defend the rights of all people." It doesn't add, "unless they are gay."
This is a difficult issue that has vexed Scouting for many years. It has stimulated a great deal of commentary that is not "helpful, friendly, courteous, (or) kind," as the Scout Law says. However, we hope that the council will be "brave" and vote to return Scouting to the mainstream of American society, where it can flourish in its stated mission of helping every young man become a "responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law."
(Affiliations noted below are for purposes of identification and should not be construed as endorsement of the views in this letter by any Scout unit or chartered organization.)
Richard L. Lobb
Former assistant scoutmaster and committee chairman, Falls Church Va.
Father of three Eagle Scouts
Janet R. Mazariegos
Assistant Scoutmaster, Silver Spring, Md.
Mother of a Life Scout and Star Scout