Boy Scouts leaders voted today to lift a ban on gay youth membership in the club. This move has been called a ‘step in the right direction’ by LGBT activists. The ban allows for openly gay children to become members of the Boy Scouts, however it did not remove the ban preventing openly gay men from leading scouts.
1400 delegates voted 60% in favor of removing the ban, marking a historic turn for the organization. The controversial measure will end on January 1st, 2014, giving the 116,000 scout troops in the country time to prepare for the change. The Boy Scouts of America said that the ban on adult homosexuals will remain in place because it was not a measure they voted on today, not because it was voted down.
Leaders of the Boy Scouts of America were quick to point out that since they are a youth organization, that sexual behavior of any kind will not be tolerated, regardless of the sexuality of the individuals at fault, as it goes against the beliefs of the Boy Scouts.
Opposition of this change, mainly from the right, maintain their opposition stance to this vote, some threatening to pull their existing sponsorships from troops they support. Those who oppose the inclusion of openly gay youth commonly cite the Scout’s oath as their justification, the oath states that “On my honor I will do my best…to keep myself physically strong, mentally alert and morally straight.”
Should sponsors go ahead with their threats and remove their sponsorships, the blow to the Boy Scouts would be a significant one. Currently around 70% of all Boy Scout troops are sponsored by religious affiliations, and this measure has them split as to what to do. If half of the sponsors pulled out, the damage would be potentially devastating to the organization.
Beth Gazely, a professor at Indiana University who supports the change stated that “It brings the Boy Scouts back into the American mainstream.” The Scouts released a statement perhaps intended to reach their opposition, pointing out that “While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens.” Programs such as the Boy Scouts benefit those who participate, and thus regardless of sexuality, it stands to reason that these children can gain something through their participation.
The century old organization has reached a sort of compromise on this issue. Keeping the ban on homosexual adults while allowing children is a way to meet in the middle, making some progress while hopefully still keeping their opposing sponsors. Neither side of the issue was quite satisfied with the decision, the LGBT acknowledged it as progress but was hoping for the inclusion of homosexual adults in the vote. Meanwhile parents in opposition have made threats to remove their children from the organization if the rule change is ever implemented.
The vote continues the change in attitude towards the homosexual community that has taken place recently in America. Just last year this same change was voted down by the Boy Scouts. However, with twelve states and counting now having legalized same sex marriage, and the percentage of support closing in on 50% of the country, the progress this community has done in recent times is undeniable. This is a major change for one of the largest youth organizations in the country, and a sign that more progress is to come for this part of our society.
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The Guardian Express