Boy Scouts of America compromise on gays: is it fair?

The announcement by the Boy Scouts of America on a new gay policy slipped by relatively unnoticed April 19. I suspect this was not entirely a coincidence.

It’s common PR practice to release sensitive news on a Friday afternoon in the hopes it gets swallowed up in the weekend news cycle. Not sure who is calling the shots for the BSA, but their PR to date has been pretty textbook.

This photo taken Monday shows a close up detail of a Boy Scout uniform worn by Brad Hankins, a campaign director for Scouts for Equality, as he responds questions during a news conference in front of the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas.(Photo: Tony Gutierrez, AP)

To recap, the BSA floated the idea some months ago that it would remove its ban on gay Scouts. The controversial change went through the usual spin cycle, with opponents and supporters issuing emotional missives.

With a few months on the back burner, BSA announced the details April 19: it would no longer deny membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation but would maintain its ban on openly gay adult leaders.

The organization’s executive committee made the proposal, which is expected to be presented to the Boy Scouts’ voting members at its May meeting in Dallas. If the policy is approved, it will take effect January 1.

“If approved, the resolution would mean that ‘no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.’ The BSA will maintain the current membership policy for all adults,” Boy Scouts public relations director Deron Smith told CNN.

Is this a good move? I don’t see it that way. It’s a typical “let’s see if we can please everyone” compromise. What usually happens is you end up pleasing no one.

If the BSA truly believes Scouts should not discriminate against gay folks, then let all gay people participate. That’s taking a stand.

If they don’t, then keep your policy as it is. You’re a private organization. People will choose to participate or not. The bottom line is, the BSA isn’t trying to be trailblazers here and they aren’t so much interested in ending discrimination as they are trying to reverse declining membership.

According to the blog, BSA has lost over 643,566 registered Cub Scouts since 1998. Total youth membership in BSA’s traditional programs has declined by approximately 27 percent (965,244 members), since 1997.

As far as the Mormon church goes, the compromise seems to work. The church sponsors the most Boy Scouts of any group in the country.

I guess even the BSA has to play politics, but to me, it resembles the South’s response to integration in the late-1950s. Southern leaders knew blacks deserved full rights, and that they had no choice in the matter, but insisted those rights would come in due time. I recall many an official noting that Southerners needed time to get used to the idea.

That doesn’t strike me as a fair granting of equal rights. It’s more like discrimination light.

What do you think of the BSA compromise?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to Boy Scouts of America compromise on gays: is it fair?

  1. Pingback: Belief & Beyond | Washington Post poll reveals broad support for allowing gays in Boy Scouts

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