February 6, 2013 | by Phil Reese
Boy Scouts delay decision on gays
Zach Wahls, gay news, Washington Blade, Boy Scouts of America

Zach Wahls delivers petitions to lift a ban on gay Scouts to the national Boy Scouts of America conference in Orlando last year. (Photo courtesy of Change.org)

The Boy Scouts of America announced Wednesday a decision to delay a vote on repealing the organization’s gay ban.

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” the statement from the board read.

“To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013.”

LGBT activists expressed disappointment at the delay, including several who had been removed from the organization after it was revealed they were gay.

“It was disappointing that the BSA National Board decided to postpone the decision today, but at the same time this discussion has been encouraging because it’s the first time that this conversation has happened among Scout leaders about allowing gays to serve as Scouts and leaders,” said former Scout and North Carolina-based QNotes editor, Matt Comer, in a statement to the Blade on Wednesday. Comer, who was an active Scout and troop’s chaplain aide, came out as gay in 8th grade at 14 years old, and was removed from the Scouts when he began a gay-straight alliance at his high school in 9th grade, just short of reaching the rank of Life Scout, which would have set him on the path of Eagle Scout.

“This conversation is going to happen over the next few months and will give an opportunity to current and former Scouts who have been discriminated against to have a voice in this conversation and hopefully have a voice in the coming vote to happen in May,” Comer — who is also founder of the Inclusive Scouting Network — continued. “It’s encouraging that this organization has been willing to discuss including gays and lesbians, after so many years of intransigence.”

“A Scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave today,” said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was removed as den mother of her son’s troop when she was revealed to be a lesbian. “The Boy Scouts had the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents, but they’ve failed us yet again. No parent should have to look their child in the eye and explain that the Boy Scouts don’t want us. Our fight will continue and we will continue to educate donors and supporters of the Boy Scouts about the effects of their anti-gay policy.”

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout, and founder of Scouts for Equality denounced the decision. Though Wahls himself is straight, he published a book last year about growing up with lesbian mothers, and structured the book’s content around the Scouts’ pillars of character.

“This is an abdication of responsibility,” Wahls said in a statement, soon after the board announced its decision. “By postponing this decision, the BSA has caved to those who argue that their ideas about being gay trump basic Scouting values of kindness, courtesy and bravery. Scouting was built on a foundation of respect and dignity. Today, the BSA cracked that foundation.”

“It’s a disappointing announcement because for the next three months Scouts and Scout families will continue to suffer under this silent shame,” Wahls told the Blade on Wednesday. “These Scouts and Scout families will be forced back into the closet after getting their hopes up last week.”

“We continue to call for an end to discrimination at any level because discrimination is devastating to all kids, gay or straight,” Wahls continued, adding that he is optimistic about the chances of a vote in May going in favor of lifting the national ban on gay Scouts. “[Lifting the ban] will lead to less discrimination and less discrimination is better than the status quo.”

Some worried about the fallout from lifting the ban welcomed the decision to delay.

“This is a complex issue,” said Les Baron, CEO and Scout Executive of National Capital Area Council (NCAC). “It impacts our program guidelines and the local chartering organizations that sponsor our units in many ways, and the National Executive Board wants to ensure they have examined every aspect of the decision closely before taking action on the resolution.”

“We fully support the board’s decision,” said Baron. “Some of our members will disagree and some will agree with the Board’s decision, but I believe a good partnership does not require full agreement on every societal issue. Our disagreements are minor compared to our shared vision and common goals – delivering the foremost character development and values-based leadership training program for local youth.”

 

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