Boy Scouts Votes to Lift Ban on Gay Members, Retain Ban on Gay Leaders

At their convention in Dallas, the 1,400 voting members of The Boy Scouts of America have voted 61% to 38% to approve a resolution lifting a ban on gay scouts. The ban would remain on gay leaders.

BsaYou can read the resolution that was voted on today here.

The Boy Scouts of America Statement:

"For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.

"Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization's long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting's mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.

"Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.

"This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.

"The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.

"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. America's youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve."

Reactions from GLAAD and the Scouting allies who have been on the ground in Dallas:

"Today's vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts' ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end," said GLAAD spokesperson, Rich Ferraro. "The Boy Scouts of America heard from religious leaders, corporate sponsors and so many Scouting families who want an end to discrimination against gay people, and GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are able to participate."

"When I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts last April, I was devastated." said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who in April 2012, alongside GLAAD, reignited a national conversation about discrimination in Scouting after she was ousted as leader of her son's Cub Scout pack because she's gay. "Having to look my son, Cruz, in the eye and tell him that our family isn't good enough was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Today is truly a watershed moment for me, but even more so for the millions of kids across this country, who will now be allowed to serve in the Scouts without fear of rejection. I'm so proud of how far we've come, but until there's a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue."

"This is an historic day in the 103-year history of the Boy Scouts of America — the day it finally found its moral compass and started down the long trail to equality in Scouting," said former Kentucky father Greg Bourke, who was ousted as Scoutmaster of his son's Boy Scouts troop because he is gay. "No longer will gay Boy Scouts have to hide their sexual orientation from fear of being criticized and ousted from the Boy Scout membership rolls. That is definite progress, but even with this approved membership change, gay adults like Jennifer Tyrrell and myself will continue to be banned from serving in the Scouts, even in units with our own children. There is no other word for that except 'discrimination.'"

Andresen"We are relieved to hear that other Scouts will not have to suffer the rejection and expulsion that Ryan experienced, and we’re glad to see that the BSA is finally starting to see how harmful its discriminatory policies have been," said Eric Andresen, who along with his wife Karen, launched a petition on Change.org in support of their son Ryan. "Had this policy been in place just 8 months ago, Ryan would already be an Eagle Scout, and he could've avoided so much pain."

"Just a few hours ago, I was thinking that today could be my last day as a Boy Scout. Obviously, for gay Scouts like me, this vote is life-changing," said Pascal Tessier, whose petition on Change.org received more than 128,000 signatures. “Like my brother before me, I now have a chance to earn my Eagle award — something that’s taken most of my life to achieve. Finally, Scouts are no longer forced to choose between upholding the Scout Oath and being open and honest about who they really are as a person."

“Today’s vote ending discrimination of gay Scouts is truly a historic moment and demonstrates the Boy Scouts of America’s commitment to creating a more inclusive organization,” said Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and Founder of Scouts for Equality. “Scouts for Equality is honored to be a part of the movement that has achieved a tremendous victory towards the fight for equality in America and we are proud to call ourselves Scouts. We look forward to the day where we can celebrate inclusion of all members and are committed to continuing our work until that occurs.”

Comments

  1. JP says

    Not to sound like a downer , but it’s like not really a victory to me. I mean, having a bunch of gay kids left with no gay adults to protect them is asking for trouble to me.

  2. Gerry says

    Yeah, it’s half a loaf and not surprising at all. They did it because money talks and they were losing too many corporate sponsors. They figure, let’s get the gay kids in, but still call them pedophiles when they turn 18 – maybe with this compromise we can get back some $$$.

    Hopefully the pressure will stay on… this is just a cynical ploy on their part…

  3. Bob says

    The OBVIOUS hidden agenda here is for the “straight” scout leaders to be trained to identify gay scouts and inform their parents and make their lives a living hell.

  4. JohnAGJ says

    I’m very glad to see this. Sure, it’s a first step but it won’t be the last one. Give it a bit more time and this policy will be modified once again. When folks see that their friends and sons get turned away from BSA once they turn 18 this policy will fall. My guess is that the leadership knows this and have chosen the best path to get there bearing in mind how many conservative religious groups sponsor their troops.

  5. mike/ says

    not having gone beyond Cub Scouts, is it normal for all of the ‘leaders’ to come from the ranks of the scouts themselves? if this is the case, their decision really doesn’t make sense. the age requirement to become a ‘leader’ is 21. do they think that the magical #21 kids turn into ‘monsters’ or ‘provocateurs’ or what? this is really a bizarre decision.

    of course, in effect they endorsing a Boy Scouts DADT…..

  6. Gary says

    Imagine the thousands of young gay boys putting down their Barbie’s and joining The Boy Scouts. One last chance — to be straight. Thank you!

  7. Caliban says

    Is it ideal? Hell no. But at the moment I’m seeing it as a glass-half-full rather than half-empty.

    Think about it. Only a YEAR ago I didn’t think it would ever go this far, especially considering the influence of the Catholic and Mormon churches on the BSA. Part of it no doubt WAS motivated by declining corporate sponsorship but this wasn’t a closed-door decision made by a handful of religious ideologues with political gamesmanship in mind, but by MANY rank and file leaders from across the country and we WON!!!! That’s awesome.

    Yes the ban on gay parent and other gay adult participation is bad but that’s the next fight. Enjoy this victory while you can, Debbie Downers! IMO it was the ban on gay YOUTH that was most important, for kids not to get kicked out for their merely being gay. Many troops across the country signaled their desire to do away with the policy so all these dire predictions of gay scout torment and “reparative therapy” attempts are mostly nothing but exaggeration and drama.

  8. Brian in Texas says

    I am a former Scout. This is at least a nice first step. It gives all kids who want to participate the opportunity to do so. I see it as a huge victory.

  9. ElCid says

    Wow, what a lot of hypocrisy and negativism here people…

    Things will evolve, but as history and society has proven it will do so not at OUR wish, but on its own.

    Let’s enjoy the this victory and get ready for the next steps…. a lot has been accomplished lately, and it won’t stop here.

    Try to be happy guys. Let’s make people who fought for this feel like we have their backs and we value their efforts.

  10. Bob says

    @Caliban — I think it’s great, too! I agree that the adult ban will fall in good time.
    However, it WAS the catholic and mormon churches that made it pass. Both groups realize that they were singling out boys within families for exclusion, which could cost them members, and both need the good publicity.
    The mormons are said to emphasize fitting into the mormonity more than they push regular Scout skills. They use Scouting to keep the boys mormon

  11. woodroad34d says

    This reminds me of that original Star Trek episode where the crew lands on a planet where there are only kids; the reason being that once they become 18, they get a deathly disease. Innocently gay until you’re 18, then you become a raging horrible monster. Well, I guess they’d know….look at what happened to the straights who voted: not exactly sweet and innocent after the age of 18 either–projection much? Well, we’re prettier,have better style, make prettier bows, have better manners, and…well, everthing! Who need ’em?

  12. JONES says

    It was far and away NOT the catholic or mormon churches which got this passed. How ludicrous. These two ‘faiths’ have been the antithesis of equality for generations.

    It was grassroots kids collecting petition signatures, gay scout kids telling their stories and raising public awareness and businesses with equality policies withholding donations that forced the BSA board hands.

  13. JONES says

    @Gary
    No badge needed.
    ‘Expolding heads’ is a political euphemism.
    Suggest you watch the video of the Goode parents here at Towleroad before judging.

  14. Francis #1 says

    The after-18 policy isn’t going to fall anytime soon unless there’s litigation. That’s just how it is. This “compromise” is clearly as far as the BSA will go. Religious organizations OK’d this “compromise”. They will not OK 18+ gay/bi individuals in the Scouts. The majority of adults in the BSA did not OK it.

    The Scouts are still essentially homophobic, these gay/bi youth are incredibly vulnerable unless there’s direct and outright policy and training on this issue, which I’m assuming there won’t be considering the statements from the Scouts that have been basically “discussions of sexuality has no place in the Scouts.” And by 18, gay youth are kicked out of the Scouts so it’s basically a set up for future embarrassment, only now the timeline isn’t at 13 years old, it’s at 18. Lastly the whole “sexual orientation ALONE is not reason to discriminate” is code word for saying that gay/bi youth are expected to be celibate. Love the sinner, hate the sin all over again.

    It’s a step forward but it’s a step from disaster to bad. Still, I’m happy because it’s the 12-17 years where kids are really developing into their own skin and gay/bi kids now know they don’t have to fear being kicked out of the Scouts if they come out.

  15. Francis #1 says

    Celebrate this victory but also be realistic. We have enough to be upset about so this is a definite victory. It’s progress in the right direction. Kids won’t be kicked out if they are openly gay and that’s a big deal. They won’t fear coming out to their friends and their parents because it would result in they being dropped from the Scouts. So this is a change that will impact their livelihoods. More kids will come out. That’s a big deal. The positives outweigh the negatives simply because of that.

    With all of that said……no, it’s not spectacular news for the reasons already stated. The culture of the Boy Scouts still isn’t really one you’d want a gay/bi kid to be apart of. So I’m happy, we all should be happy, but realistic.

  16. Paul R says

    The Boy Scouts kicked me out after I skipped a couple grades, and told my mother that if I wanted to continue she had to form another troop with other kids who had also skipped two grades. Like that was so likely. There were no complaints about my behavior or anything else. Also, like so many boys who join the Cub or Boy Scouts are out gays anyway.

    I think this has been a misdirected effort by overly sentimental people toward an evil organization run by monsters. F the Scouts. They’re homogeneous and dated—why participate? They also found a reason to kick out the only Jewish kid when they booted me out. Two other parents pulled out their sons in protest and the troop leader quit. And that was 30 years ago.

  17. Polyboy says

    Well, the biggest conversion therapy organization in the nation just opened for business.

    “You’ll lose all your friends when you turn 18. Just trust Jesus to pull the evil gay out of you.”

  18. Jay says

    Too little, too late. This will not help the Boy Scouts. Their name will still be synonymous with bigotry. They will remain a backward and marginalized, largely Southern, organization. I hope that donors will continue to deny them funds because of their discriminatory employment policies and that performers will continue to boycott their jamborees. This is not a victory for gay people, but in the long run it is disastrous for these yoyos who have ruined a respected brand.

  19. Mike Ryan says

    The gay community and those who support the gay community should call for a full boycott. Any gay child now enrolled in the Boy Scouts should be removed and placed in other non-religious bigoted organizations. This is outrageous that the Boy Scouts who refuse to accept gay adults. What they are saying is that no gay adult should be trusted, that all gay adults are perverted pedophiles.

    Block, deny and call for the repeal of all funding to the Boy Scouts of America.

  20. Charlie says

    This is progress for the moment. What will be interesting is to see if all of the Scouting troops that were saying they would leave if this change occurred actually occurs. I think it probably won’t, just as the people who said thousands of people would leave the armed forces if DADT was repealed were utterly wrong.

    It will be hard in the long run for the BSA to say kids who were acceptable while they were young become predators when they turn 18. In a few years the BSA will realize this and change again. For a little bit everyone should relish the disappointment that groups like the FRC and OMM are experiencing. They must be really steamed that their influence is waning so much.

  21. Francis #1 says

    The Boy Scouts leadership have said they consider this issue shut and closed and will not be revisiting the manner. Translation: They’re doing the bare minimum and that’s about it. The #1 reason cited to take this route and partially get rid of the anti-gay ban was concerns about loss of membership, so that means the people power worked. They felt our pressure, 1.8 million signed petitions against the anti-gay ban. Attitudes regarding the policy are very mixed in the BSA, and the Northeast and California are the only regions that are solidly against it.

    This issue isn’t over. Not at all. But I’m happy for gay/bi youth that they can come out and not be outright rejected from the BSA as a result. Step forward. But we haven’t won yet.

  22. Francis #1 says

    (I should make clear, if it isn’t already–the Northeast and California are the only regions solidly for gay-inclusive Scouting)

    Charlie, you’re right. The biggest victory is seeing all the hard-right wingnuts going crazy. They’re exposing their gross hatred for all to see. It’s fun.

    There won’t be a mass exodus in the Scouts. Some will leave, the overwhelming majority will not. Religious organizations supported this compromise and most parents supported it too….as long as they don’t allow anyone gay 18+ and don’t discuss “homosexual issues” within the BSA. Those was their deal breakers. But the overwhelming majority also didn’t feel it was appropriate to discriminate against children on the basis of sexual orientation *only*.

    This is something that is going to be solved over years. I want equality now but we’re not there yet, unfortunately. Down the line, the rest of the ban will be eliminated, there will be anti-discrimination policies in place, and gay youth and adults will actually be affirmed as OK. But we’re not there yet, so lets see today as a step towards that.

  23. Randy says

    Charlie: “For a little bit everyone should relish the disappointment that groups like the FRC and OMM are experiencing. They must be really steamed that their influence is waning so much.”

    Agreed! The policy was voted on by straight people, and they couldn’t even get straight people to hate gays enough to kick us out permanently.

    It was a lopsided vote — an landslide, really. There was no question that the policy is solid now. I doubt any troops, except those in Michelle Bachmann’s district, will vote to break off. It will be a huge non event.

    No one is listening to Bryan Fisher, except us gays apparently. No on is listening to Tony Perkins or Brian Brown or any of the groups that hate us. That must infuriate them. Worse, it means that as they fail to produce results, donors will disappear. No one likes to fund losers.

    They have to understand that after their string of losses this year, starting with the presidential election, their strategies are failing epically. I doubt they will change course, though, and that’s good for us.

  24. jleo71 says

    This is no victory at all. The only reason they are doing this is because they have lost so much funding. I say keep it up until they realize that gay is gay no matter the age.

  25. Robert M. says

    As an Eagle Scout and a Vigil member of the Order of the Arrow, I am pleased that the ban on gay youth has been lifted by the BSA.

    As an adult who used to be involved with Scouting on a national level, I am appalled that the BSA caved to religious zealots and continues to believe that adults who are gay are somehow a risk to male children.

    Until the organization completely reverses itself on this issue, I will actively continue to work against the organization.

  26. Bob says

    @JONES — and others
    Yes, the catholic and mormon voting blocs control the BSA Board and could have swung it either way. Both needed to LOOK good. Both needed to resolve the problem of families with one Gay brother, etc
    Those who think petitions did it do not understand politics

  27. Francis #1 says

    I think we all know principle had little to nothing to do with anything, Bob. That’s part of the issue. The BSA hasn’t truly become a gay-accepting organization. But they did what they felt necessary to assuage folks within the BSA who are against the policy and try to take some negative spotlight off their organization.

    It’s a smart ploy if you think about it. We cannot allow them to get away with it.

  28. Carter says

    Being gay and a former Boy Scout, this really has hit home with the deep memories. This was my life; My brother was an Eagle Scout and Assistant Scout Master when I joined the Scouts (based in our church). At the time, he was in the middle of molesting me for 5 years (ages 9 – 14). I stayed with the Scouts a year but ultimately LEFT because our troop (as well as the Troop in the church that was nearest our home) was notorious for sexcapades on camping trips and during Jamborees. This was the STRAIGHT Scouts I didn’t want to be a part of! I was uncomfortable with all the naked hazing/frolicking/molesting, so I quit despite heavy family pressure not to. After all, they bought my outfits and all my gear and my brother was so high up. BTW, my brother is married and living in Texas!

  29. JONES says

    So you’d have us believe that the two largest organized anti gay equality groups in the world, with all their other supported avenues of hate speech and legislative measures still ongoing, their hierarchy decided internally that they needed to look good on this one particular issue.

    The 864 delegates who voted for inclusiveness would disagree with you as would the nearly 2 million petitioners. Public outcry with raised voices of outrage and a threat to funding was what made them want to ‘look good’.

  30. Francis #1 says

    Based on the internal poll and statements made after the vote, the #1 reason made to partially relaxing the gay ban was due to “fears of loss of membership” and “social irrelevancy”. So this was done, yes, Jones is right, people power worked and the pressure was put on externally and internally. But really, it was about saving the Boy Scouts and in their eyes this “compromise” will achieve that. There was some principle involved regarding not rejecting gay/bi preteens/under 18, but the primary reason was reasons that are driven by reputation concerns and public image.

  31. andrew says

    Change sometimes comes in small steps. This small step is far better than no step. Once some outstanding young gay scouts reach adulthood and apply for positions of leadership, there will be no rational way to keep them out of those positions. The whole argument against gay scout leaders is really preposterous. There are now probably more gay scout leaders than there are gay hair stylists, dancers, figure skaters etc. etc.

  32. Mike Ryan says

    All of you STOP claiming that this is progress, that it is ok ‘for now’ and that it will ‘get better’ down the road. What the Boy Scouts of America has done is despicable in no uncertain terms. Their aim and purpose allowing gay scouts in is to hound those scouts and pray the freakin’ gay out of them and if it isn’t possible, they will turn a blind eye to bullying, harassment, violence and brow-beating of gay scouts. They are also demonizing gay adults – that YOU and ME – by refusing to allow us to be scout leaders they are telling the world that we are not worthy, that we are perverted, that every one of us is a pedophile not to be trusted with their children.

    I say boycott the SOBs – demand their tax exempt status be revoked immediately, stop all funding, put pressure on any company that promotes, funds or encourages parents to put their kids in the Boy Scouts.

    I am appalled at those of you who say “it’s a fine step … we’re getting there … happy to see gay kids get in … – that all bull lucky and get a dam grip, will you? The BSA has just slammed your head in the toilet.

  33. andrew says

    What the Boy Scouts have done represents some progress. Those who want immediate and complete social change now, will always be disappointed. It is exciting to chant: What do we want? We want complete equality. When do we want it? We want it now. We all want it now and we should keep pushing for it. However, a study of history shows us that is not how nations and societies change.

  34. Ziemba says

    Personally, I don’t even think they should let gay scouts in and if the BSA continues to allow themselves to be pressured into budging on this gay sh!t, then I won’t be at all upset if the Catholic and Mormon churches – which, make NO mistake, are the BIGGEST financial supporters of the BSA (moreso than liberal corporations) – drop their support. And if the Catholic and Mormon churches drop their support, the organization WILL collapse. Those random donations they get from IBM (who wouldn’t dare let the BSA use their basements and supplies) or wherever else that threatened to pull their support unless they let gays in won’t be enough to make up the difference.

    It was the churches that benevolently stepped up and SAVED the BSA from collapse back in the 70’s, because they believed in the org and the traditional values they were trying to instill in young men…and THIS is how they thank them? By basically spitting on those same values just to appease a bunch of liberal kooks who have taken “live and let live” to extreme proportions, and are trying to force everyone to comply. Shame on them! This “compromise” is still a load of B.S., because there should have been none to begin with.

    I’m tired of this crap now. Some people need to learn that not everyone is going to like you, and that not everyone is welcomed everywhere. Stop making a big deal of it, and find one of the numerous other places that will welcome you INSTEAD of protesting those that would rather not.

  35. 1♥ says

    @Ziemba
    So your idea of “traditional values” is hate and bigotry.
    It looks like the majority disagrees with you.
    And by all means, please don’t stop hating, I hope your hate consumes you for the rest of your life and beyond.

  36. CS9 says

    IA w/ Ziemba. I feel like the scouts are basically giving a middle finger to the churches and religious groups that have long supported them when no one else did. They’re compromising themselves to appease companies who only offer donations as a PR move. Yes the BSA obviously needs those donations to help stay afloat, but if the churches decide that they have been so snubbed by these new policy changes and pull out, then the BSA is literally sunk.

  37. johnny says

    I’d like to see some figures on how many kids would normally stay in Boy Scouts past the age of 18. That would help me feel a little bit better about this if I knew there was a low percentage.

    Imagine the 17-yr-old (with an upcoming birthday) who comes out to his fellow scouts, gets some kind of acceptance and then has to say goodbye to them within a few weeks?

    I wonder why they didn’t have a caveat that says “If you are currently under 18 and self-identify as gay, you can stay in scouts past your 18th birthday as long as you have been gay and a scout previously.”

    And I agree, HUGE mixed message. I’m OK as a gay kid, but not OK as a gay adult?

    And what about Camp Fire Kids? Is that organization growing due to this? If I had a gay child, that’s where I’d take him/her and just tell Boy Scouts to f*ck off.

    Besides, isn’t the Scouts primarily a training ground for future cannon fodder (military) anyway?

  38. Matt Kuksa says

    All this talk about losing corporate sponsorship and membership if the bans were upheld is cute. The fact is that if the Catholic and Mormon churches wanted to, they could virtually END the Boy Scouts period (.) if they make a move that steps too far outside of what they approve of. The corporate sponsorship and signatures aren’t enough to overthrow all the funding and services that the churches provide. But I think the gay community really couldn’t care less about that, they were simply using the Boy Scouts as an indirect pawn to spar with religion.

  39. Francis #1 says

    It’s a pretty high percentage, Johnny. I think the majority of kids eventually drop out before they turn 18 but once they do turn 18 they usually stay with the organization. In any case, there is no role models for these gay/bi kids to look up to and based on what I read the Scouts aren’t changing anything regarding the “traditional values” they preach.

    Matt, religion isn’t an excuse to be anti-gay.

  40. Anonymous says

    johnny: BSA throws around the 4% figure for the number of boys who eventually become Eagle Scouts, and I can tell you from personal experience that the reason a Scout fails to attain the Eagle rank is usually because of quitting. So I should expect that less than 4% of Scouts continue to participate in BSA after becoming adults.

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