Today, a young gay man growing up in a small town, in a deeply conservative home, can look out his window and see his country evolving. Just a few years ago, his military barred him from serving openly, a hate crime committed against him might have gone unpunished as such, and his Congress was debating whether or not to amend the Constitution to render him a second-class citizen. Today, America looks so much more like a country that embraces him, even if discrimination still prevails in his church, his schoolyard or around his dinner table.
But even as this incredible transformation takes place nationwide, one group we trust to teach America’s children well has stood firmly against giving this young gay man the hope of an inclusive future: the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America.
Recently, reports have emerged that the BSA may remove its long-standing ban on openly gay Scouts and instead allow local chartering organizations — churches, civic organizations, and the like — to institute bans of their own.
This is not a solution. If anything, it is a reaffirmation of the BSA leadership’s belief that it is OK to teach young boys to dislike and reject other young boys simply on the basis of who they are — a reaffirmation which allows the BSA leadership to escape blame for what is increasingly seen as a deeply immoral policy.
If this seems harsh, remember that in the year 2000, the BSA went all the way to the Supreme Court to argue that barring gay Scouts was absolutely central to their principles as an organization. In order to claim that the ban did not violate state nondiscrimination laws, they had to prove that keeping gay youth out was part of the organization’s core “expressive message” protected by the First Amendment. They succeeded, and the justices upheld their right to ban gay Scouts.
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