Justice in the Boy Scouts of America? Not Even Close

It has now become apparent that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has no intention of even considering ending the national ban on gays among adult scout leaders. Instead, its national council will be voting on whether or not to end the ban on gay youth leaders. Under the new proposed policy, gay people can earn their merit badges, take on youth leadership, become Eagle Scouts, then be thrown out of the organization once they turn eighteen. In all probability, the story put forth by BSA leaders that they were considering ending the national ban completely was simply a stall tactic to delay losing donations. Unfortunately, the “compromise proposal,” gives off the impression to some people of solving a problem when it in fact merely continues to perpetuate it. Any gay person who wants to continue to be an active member in the organization upon reaching adulthood will still suffer discrimination, and homophobia will continue to flourish in the BSA, because the policy will reinforce it. One of the most popular arguments in favor of discriminating against gay adults in the BSA is that a heterosexual man would not be allowed to sleep in a tent with girls. This argument might have some relevance if we were discussing the issue of women sleeping in a tent with boys, but since we are talking about gay men, said argument is a sophistic non-sequitur. I am urging that the ongoing boycott of the BSA continue with just as much vigor as ever until a national non-discrimination policy is adopted by the BSA that covers both children and adults. If discrimination is wrong–and it is–then a boycott should not cease simply because said discrimination is now only focused on adults. The goal of any great freedom movement has never been to make an injustice more tolerable. Rather, the goal has always been to eliminate that injustice. Some will claim that I am demanding that change happen too fast. However, as Martin Luther King, Jr. once warned, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” The BSA has had a century to stop discriminating against gays and lesbians. How much longer should we allow them to continue doing so? Five years? Ten? Twenty? The truth is that a discriminatory policy should never have existed. Now, however, the momentum has shifted strongly in favor of gay rights. Yet the BSA refuses to embrace this positive change. And so, all of us who believe in equal rights and fair treatment must keep the pressure on the organization. Ending the boycott while a ban on gay adult leaders is in place would aggravate the problem, not ameliorate it. If the boycott were to cease now, the BSA would have no pragmatic incentive to adopt a national non-discrimination policy. If, however, the BSA continues to lose membership and donations, the BSA National Council will have no two options. They can either adopt a national non-discrimination policy or disband due to bankruptcy and lack of membership. The American public is now too solidly in favor of gay rights to continue supporting an organization that blatantly discriminates against gay people.

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