“A Scout is brave,” declares the Boy Scout law, and that trait is emerging in an upwelling against a Boy Scouts of America policy forbidding openly gay members and adult leaders. As the Globe reported recently, 150 Eagle Scouts around the nation, including some in Massachusetts, have returned their badges, which signify Scouting’s highest rank. One such Scout, Ned Coltman of Troop 728 in Reading, wrote the national group to rescind his affiliation. “To be involved in an organization that displays this blind hatred,” he wrote, “is one of the most terrible feelings I have ever had.”
Coltman and others who’ve rejected the Boy Scouts’ highest honor over this issue deserve praise for taking a strong stand. But also admirable are those Scouts who have decided to fight the organization’s discriminatory policy from the inside. A broad national petition drive called Scouts for Equality, launched in the wake of a council’s ouster of a lesbian Cub Scout leader in Ohio, now claims 477,000 signatures — and, significantly, the support of more than 1,000 Eagle Scouts.
That drive, led by Iowa Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, the son of lesbian parents, lists several supporting local councils on its website, including the Boston Minuteman, which added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy in 2001. Its website recommends that Eagles do not renounce their badges, saying, “A unified voice is more powerful than a solitary one.” It seems difficult to believe the Boy Scouts of America can continue its current policy much longer. And the more Scouts who press for change, the faster it will come.