Boy Scouts One Step From Lifting Ban On Gay Leaders
The executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America has unanimously approved a resolution that would end the organization's blanket ban on gay adult leaders. Meantime, local troops are watching and waiting to see what happens next.
BSA President and former Defense Sec Robert Gates, speaking to the national convention in May, said with dozens of states passing employment equality laws, the Boy Scouts could face one or more court challenges to drop its ban on gay leaders. He added they do not want to go there.
“If we wait for the courts to act, we could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard, including our foundational belief in our duty to God, and our focus on serving the specific needs of boys” Gates said. “Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes.”
In a statement Monday, the BSA said the resolution, approved by the 17-member executive committee on Friday, would become official policy immediately, if ratified by the organization's 80-member national executive board on July 27.
“I guess the main surprise for me, was that I was fully expected for this to be done at the October national board meeting,” said Spencer Page, executive director of the Gulf Coast Council based in Pensacola.
“Things have accelerated so fast in our country that this is one of the number one issues of our day,” said Page. “And it’s forced us to move a lot faster.”
The resolution also allows individual Scout troops to set their own leadership policies, and faith-based units opposed to the change could maintain the ban. Besides the Southern Baptist Church, other denominations that sponsor large numbers of Scout units, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon Churches, have been apprehensive about ending the ban on gay adults.
Going forward with lifting the ban three months before the full BSA board meeting in October could have an impact during the organization’s vital fall recruiting period.
“We put out a notice to our members, donors and families, just giving them an update to the information we received,” Page said. “I’ve gotten quite a few calls and emails running the gamut of ‘Good decision/Bad decision,’ [and] ‘I quit/I’m here to stay.’”
The main question, says Page, is whether the troops, packs and crews under the GCC’s umbrella are able to digest the decision by this fall, to make their own leadership decisions.
For numerous reasons, the Boy Scouts of America, like several other major youth organizations, has experienced a membership decline in recent decades. Current membership, according to BSA, is about 2.4 million boys and about one million adults.