The BSA recently affirmed their anti-gay policy and then all of a sudden last week they announced they would reconsider. This rather quick about face signaled to me that the policy would be reversed. There would be no reason to bring up the topic so soon unless there finally enough votes to have the Boy Scouts of America join the 21st Century. In preparation for the announcement, I wrote the following:
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It has been nearly three years since I first wrote about the Boy Scouts of America and their Gay Problem and a little more than two years since my It Gets Better video; it has been eight years since I served as Western Region Chief for the Order of the Arrow. Now, the Boy Scouts of America has finally partially changed their ban on gays. Thousands of young men will not be able to be honest with both their hearts and their fellow Scouts. They will be able to come to terms with their sexuality in a far healthier way than hiding in the shadow as they have in decades past. Gay adults will be able to provide positive role models for straight and gay kids alike. What happens next?
My hunch is that it will largely be like the catastrophic blow to America’s defenses once Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was appealed. Although as folks in the BSA are contractually bound to follow order, the implementation may be a bit more messy. It is important to understand that what the actual policy is that memberships decisions will be made at the troop level as opposed to a blanket national policy. This means The Center in Las Vegas can sponsor an all inclusive Troop and some bigoty church elsewhere can still ban gays and lesbians. Some are calling on the BSA to have a non discrimination policy, to force all units to allow gays; those who do do not understand the complexities of the national and regional culture of the organization and its partners. The day may come but this first small step is plenty for now. In the day to day running of the organization, this will actually change very little.
The more complex policy question comes for Districts and Councils and OA Lodges and Chapters. These are groups that are run by volunteers outside the realm of an actual unit. What comes down from the National Organization on this respect will be very interesting to watch. Will an anit-gay Lodge Adviser be able to prevent a gay Chapter Adviser from serving? Will an anti-gay District Chairman refuse to permit gay friendly troops from participating in a camporee? Should a gay scout be banned from serving on summer camp staff just because the camp director isn’t so keen on the new policy? The answer to these questions should be an emphatic “no” but the tone of which will mostly rely on local professional Scouters paid by the national organization to implement the program. What should be clear is that Scout Executives and high ranking volunteers should start to figure out their responses now. Those who fear this change need to embrace getting educated on LGBT issues and should be prepared to stand firm for equality in what may be a loud chorus of folks clinging to the past. Each Council should prepare to have a handful of folks prepared to help local units and districts tackle questions that arise from members about the new policy and should bring in members of the LGBT community to help inform and guide professionals and volunteers as we move forward as an organization. The BSA produces strong youth and adult leaders and it is going to take some strength to help smooth any wrinkles in the implementation of the policy. If you’re one of those leaders, I’m happy to help you out.
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The decision makers today in Texas chickened out and punted the decision to the May meeting. The delay has questionable impacts on the final decision. Some folks asked me today if by punting it the large more likely more conservative full group in May and I can say I am now not sure. I thought today’s vote was a sure thing and clearly I was wrong. What I do know is that the time gives both sides additional time to crank up the pressure. A lot of pressure the last week was placed on the national office in Texas. With more groups being able to contribute their voices, it is critical that those in favor of ending the ban speak with their local Scouting Councils. Once you figure out what your local Council is, try to hunt down your Key 3 (Scout Executive, Council Board President, and Council Commissioner).
For example, for the Nevada Area Council the Key 3 is as follows
Scout Executive: Keith Ashby firstname.lastname@example.org
Board President: Sandy Rogers email@example.com
Council Commissioner: Jeff Whitaker firstname.lastname@example.org
You could also contact the rest of the board for your council.
Those three people need to hear that there is support for lifting the ban locally. The folks at the very top want the change and now we need to build pressure locally. It was local groups that largely won in getting a delay today and it will take local groups to lift the ban and implement the ideas I wrote about in anticipation of a victory today. What happens next largely depends on how much reasonable pressure is placed on the organization in the next several weeks. It should be steady, polite, and reasonable. Thousands of closeted Scouts are counting us.