Boy Scouts to Review Policy on Gays

The Boy Scouts have agreed to consider a resolution submitted by a Scout leader from the Northeast in April and presented at the BSA's annual meeting last week in Orlando that would allow individual troops to accept gay people as scout leaders, the AP reports:

Bs_wahlsBSA spokesman Deron Smith said Wednesday it would be referred to a subcommittee, which will then make a recommendation to the national executive board. The process would likely be completed by May 2013, according to Smith, who said there were no plans at this time to change the policy.

The announcement comes following last week's delivery of 275,000 petitions calling on the organization to lift its ban on gay people which were delivered by Eagle scout Zach Wahls on behalf of Jennifer Tyrrell a lesbian Ohio den mother who was ousted from her job last month.

Wahls, in a telephone interview, said he and his allies planned a campaign to mobilize opposition to the gay-exclusion policy from within Scout ranks, with the goal of building pressure for the resolution to be approved.

"Up to the day they end this policy, they'll be saying they have no plans to do so," Wahls said. "But there's no question it's costing the Boy Scouts in terms of membership and public support."

Wahls made a statement in a release from GLAAD:

“Last Wednesday I delivered 275,000 petition signatures — including the signatures of thousands of scouts and scout leaders — to the Boy Scouts of America because I love the organization and I refuse to stand by idly as it forfeits its cultural relevancy at the very moment this country needs it most,” said Wahls. “In proposing to allow local charter organizations to decide whether or not they’ll include gay youth and leaders within their ranks, the Boy Scouts of America has taken an historic step forward, and I applaud their bravery in doing so.”

Wahls met with the Boy Scouts of America’s Public Relations Director, Deron Smith, and other top-ranking Boy Scout officials who asked not to be named after delivering the 275,000 petition signatures to the organization’s annual national meeting last Wednesday.

“As both an Eagle Scout with a personal investment in the success of the Boy Scouts of America and as the son of a lesbian couple, it means a lot to see this change finally set in motion,” added Wahls.


  1. Steve says

    Oh please. That will go nowhere. They’ll swiftly kill it and then pretend that they are oh so progressive for having “considered” it. Never mind that the Boy Scouts are controlled almost entirely by the evil Mormon empire.

  2. Terry says

    Mark my words: Zach Wahls is one of the most charismatic, intelligent, and eloquent advocates for LGBT people that has ever come along, and I predict this man, the straight son of two moms from Iowa, may be the greatest LGBT hero to come along, since Harvey Milk.

  3. ryan says

    as an eagle scout (who got his award the summer the Supreme Court made their ruling) this has always pained me. I sincerely hope they change the policy (or at least allow it to be decided at the local level) I would love to be involved in scouting as an adult leader, the organization gave me so much, but I refuse to lie to do so.

  4. Caliban says

    As others have said, don’t hold your breath.

    The BSA is heavily funded by the Mormon and Catholic churches and this policy is unlikely to change until that changes. Maybe there could be schism and a breakaway group could be more accepting, but that’s the only possibility for change I see anytime soon.

  5. Smartypants says

    I was in Scouting for 15 years from Cub through Eagle – long before the ruling that officially banned gay people from the organization. It would be wonderful to see this policy change, but I’m not holding my breath.

  6. Pete N SFO says

    I also am an Eagle Scout & credit Scouting as a great teacher of leadership, communication skills, good-manners, & some of my most important childhood friendships. Not once did my experience include the vilifying or ostracizing of gay people… so what has changed?

    Whatever happened, this group needs to learn from its own strengths & get with it. Every day they persist, it pains me & damages them.

  7. kansastock says

    The point here is to allow ‘local charter organizations’ to allow gay participation in the Scouts at their option. Its a fair request. If anyone can make this happen, its Wahls. The kid has a future I’m looking forward to following.

    ered troop in central Kansas

  8. Caliban says

    I’m not very familiar with the history of the Scouts, but it’s my understanding that any religious content is secondary, reflecting more the culture of the time rather than being a primary consideration, as the current leadership seems to characterize it today. Is that accurate?

    I understand her upset, but in my opinion the lawsuit on behalf of the lesbian scout-leader is a red herring. Though the anti-gay leadership of the BSA would LIKE to make the issue about gay leadership (thus invoking fears of molestation), that isn’t the real story at all. It’s about the gay SCOUTS, not gay leaders. It’s about young men, children really, joining the organization long before they have any knowledge of their sexual orientation, then later being kicked out, told they’re unacceptable, when they later realize they’re gay.

  9. gr8guyca says

    @ Terry: I am also a fan of Zach Wahls. He is a very impressive young man and a great advocate for gay rights. However, I think that he can never be a Harvey Milk or principal leader of an LGBT group. Why? Ironically, because he is not gay. For the same reason that the NAACP would never have a white leader, it would always seem that a major figure in the gay rights movement would be gay.

  10. AG says

    I agree with the above comment.

    While Zach Wahls can never be a Harvey Milk, he certainly has my respect and gratitude.

    I wonder if it would be appropriate to refer to him as a “righteous hetero.”

  11. BobN says

    Even if they change the policy to allow local troops to accept gay leaders, the national organization should continue to be cut off from government subsidies.

    And what about atheists????

  12. Dave says

    The Boy Scouts are another hate group connected to other Christian hate groups and churches that want to stop gays from being accepted. This is discrimination and they should take this matter up with the ACLU and sue them for this practice. They use to not allow African boys who wanted to join, they were refused because they were of African decent or black and when they did they kept them with their own kind by segregation. shame on them.

  13. Stefan says

    Another Eagle Scout here!

    While I agree that this likely will go nowhere, it’s still a huge step forward that they are even considering doing this. That’s how all changes begin.

  14. Gregv says

    I have no preference for whether a leader on issues is gay, straight or bi. The important thing is that he/she fully grasps the issues and can be an articulate spokesman. Not pnly is Zach Walls an idesl candidate for leading on gay issues as well as other issues, but he also has a vital and underrepresented wealth of experience as the son of two gay parents.
    In that sense, Zach is the face of the new generation on issues of gay equality.

    As for the Scouts, I find it a bit pathetic that It would, in fact, be a progressive step to simply allow local troops to choose whether to practise ugly discrinination or not.
    I also wonder where this proposal leaves gay scouts themselves (as opposed to just leaders), who are the most vulnerable victims of the anti-gay policies.

  15. Neil says

    @Caliban, the foundational requirement of Scout membership has always required something along the lines of duty to God, duty to country, and duty to self. It was designed to teach boys self-reliance and was originally meant to be a program that could be used by church youth groups in Britain.

    When the founder returned to England from foreign war duties just after the original manual was published, he discovered that boys there had formed their own groups to play the “game” of Scouting and had recruited their own leaders. It was from this time that it started to become its own organization. Although it started in Christian churches, it quickly adapted to embrace all the world’s religions.

    The international Scout Law includes a phrase “A Scout is clean in thought, word and deed.” The American version of things includes the phrase “morally straight” and this has been interpreted to ban gay members due to the assumption that homosexuality is immoral.

    I’m not aware of any other of the 161 countries which belong to the World Organization of the Scout Movement that have a specific rule banning gay people from joining. Canada doesn’t. The Scout Association in the U.K. produced a document last year entitled, “It’s OK to be gay and a Scout!”. “A further document, ‘Gay adults in Scouting’, reassures prospective leaders and volunteers that they will not be turned away on the basis of their sexuality,” according to an article that appeared last year in The Scotsman.

  16. Nick says

    Not sure of an exact date, but African American scouts were allowed to join earlier in scouting than your post lets on and I know for a fact they were one of the first youth organization to de-segregate in the south. They actually had a pretty good civil rights history as far a race goes. Of course not so well with gay rights which is what we are fighting far now. Please do not undermine this effort with false claims. I heard the BSA took a pretty long look at the policy this past year and decided not to change it. But the fact the aggred to consider again gives me hope, though I do not expect a change by next year, I think a change in this policy within the decade will be one of the largest gay rights victories we see.

  17. Lance says

    GR8GUYCA: Yes, yes.


    I support allies, absolutely, but to treat them as “the face” or “leaders” of LGBT people is absolutely ridiculous. Why is this OK but not a man being the image of the feminist movement, a white person heading an African American organization or a cisgender individual being the president of a trans group?

  18. homogenius says

    A bit of context on the BSA. They are out of sync with other major US youth programs with their gay ban. Girl Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Boys and Girls Clubs all allow gay and lesbian youth and leaders. To my knowledge, none of the national Scouting bodies in our peer Western democracies have such a ban, either.

    Scouting is a great program for boys–my two nephews are doing great. But the BSA is beholden to the Mormons, Catholics, Methodist Men’s body, and other conservative religious sects. It is well known in Scouting circles that every time the Mormons don’t get their way, they threaten to leave Scouting and form their own program.

    I won’t say that change is impossible for the BSA–certainly the ending of DADT adds to the pressure, along with continuing social change in the US. But the BSA is very insular and slow to change. I believe it will take time and a lot more pressure to make them even allow local option.

  19. Jerry6 says

    So now the BS of A may come full circle. I was a Gay Scout in the Gay Patrol of our town’s Boy Scout Troop that had a Gay man as Scout Master, and you know what? None of the strait kids in the Strait Patrols, (Or their parents)gave a damn.
    We all enjoyed the experience.

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