HRC Blog

GLAAD and HRC: Boy Scouts on the Wrong Side of History

HRC President Chad Griffin and GLAAD President Herndon Graddick penned a joint op-ed that appeared in the Dallas Morning News, discussing the BSA’s ban on gay scouts and scout leaders:

On Tuesday we learned that the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) would be upholding an archaic and exclusionary policy that bans gay people from Scouting. Scouting is one of the most revered and time-honored institutions in America and we recognize the tremendous good the organization does for youth in this country. Yet we fear that the recent decision reaffirming their ban on gay scouts and scout leaders does far more harm than they may realize.

BSA's mission to help young people build character and responsible citizenship is admirable and has helped create generations of leaders that continue to contribute to society in ways that make our country strong. It is with that in mind that we truly cannot understand how in 2012, the organization's leadership can publicly and with good conscience, continue a tradition of intolerance and exclusion against gay Americans who simply wish to take the Scout's oath.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people today face unrelenting bullying and hardship in practically all aspects of life. And while some are fortunate enough to grow up in a welcoming and loving environment, the fact remains that over 90 percent of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about who they are. What's worse, only 37 percent describe themselves as happy, compared to the nearly 70 percent of their straight peers.

So what lesson are these youth taught when they learn that they are not welcome at a Scout meeting after school with all of their friends, simply because they happen to have been born gay? Or how do you think it feels for moms like Jennifer Tyrrell, who cannot be den mothers simply because they are lesbian? Every parent deserves to be involved in their child's life.

This discriminatory policy against gay people is doing nothing more than hurting young people today and perpetuating the false notion that being gay is wrong. At a time when America is moving in the direction of acceptance and inclusion, the BSA has decided to uphold a practice of exclusion, even though it espouses “helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.”

Not only is inclusion the right policy, it is one that other organizations have found successful. Girl Scouts of the USA has a strong commitment to accepting all people and has in place a policy that prohibits discriminatory treatment of any kind, including on the basis of one's sexual orientation and gender identity. It has been a year since the discriminatory ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy was repealed and military leadership will tell you there hasn't been any negative impact. Ninety-nine percent of American companies scored as part of HRC's Corporate Equality Index have sexual orientation non-discrimination protections, including 86 percent of all Fortune 500 companies. And now most Christian denominations and many faith traditions accept LGBT people to worship with them.

The BSA's puzzling announcement that they would not be changing their policies came after 300,000 Americans, including many Eagle Scouts, signed Jennifer's Change.org petition calling on an end to the ban. The BSA noted that the decision was made after a two-year examination by a secret committee. We wonder what evidence led this committee to believe that accepting “avowed homosexuals” into the organization would negatively impact Scouting in America and why the BSA refuses to disclose their findings? History tells us that gay people are productive, responsible members of society – just like straight people.

The leadership of the Boy Scouts of America are on the wrong side of history on this issue. But more importantly, they are sending a dangerous message from a high pedestal that gay people are not to be valued and not to be included in society. We urge the Scouting leadership to reconsider this policy and do the right thing for families who are negatively affected by this policy, as well as the millions of Americans who disagree with them on this issue.

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