An LGBT group working to end the gay ban for the Boy Scouts of America is striking an optimistic tone on the day leaders are set to vote on a resolution to partially lift it.
Rich Ferraro, vice president of communications for Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said he expects the 1,400 members of the Boy Scouts National Council to approve a measure allowing gay youths to participate.
“I’m confident, especially now that the BSA leadership is behind the resolution,” Ferraro said. “I think it’s because of the stories that BSA voting members and Americans have heard over the past years from moms from Ohio and teenagers from California who shouldn’t be discriminated against.”
The vote is taking place in Grapevine, Texas, during the organization’s 2013 National Annual Meeting. An announcement on the vote is expected around 6 pm. The Washington Blade will provide updates as warranted.
Currently, openly gay people are unable to participate in the Boy Scouts in any capacity. The proposal would alter the policy so gay youths can take part in the organization. Even if the resolution is approved, gay adults would still be unable to serve as scoutmasters.
Ferraro based his optimism on work activists have done to draw attention to the gay ban as well as statements from Boy Scouts’ leadership in opposition to current policy.
Wayne Perry, president of the Boy Scouts of America, called on the organization to approve the resolution in an op-ed in USA Today published on Thursday.
“The BSA’s executive committee unanimously presented this resolution because it stays true to Scouting’s mission and remains focused on kids,” Perry writes. “No matter what your opinion is on this issue, America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation’s children.”
According to GLAAD, thousands of people on both sides of the issue are at the hotel to make their views heard — many of them clad in their Boy Scouts’ uniform.
“I think it shows just what I’ve seen over the past year running this campaign how dedicated people are to the institution of scouting,” Ferraro said. “The message that we’re trying to send is that including gay adults and gay teenagers will only strengthen the institution of scouting.”
Members of Congress have also weighed in. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), along with 20 other House members, delivered to the Boy Scouts earlier this week a letter asking the group to change its policy.
“Today, BSA has a policy that excludes gay Scouts and Scout leaders from participating,” the letter states. “This is counter to BSA’s mission to teach our youth to combat discrimination. … We strongly urge the BSA to pass the proposed resolution to end discrimination against gay youth. Furthermore, we believe that BSA should implement a full non-discrimination policy.”
Zach Wahls, a 21-year-old activist and Eagle Scout, said the time is right for the Boy Scouts to change during an event in Grapevine called the Equal Scouting Summit.
“It is clear that if Scouting is not willing to move forward on this issue, it will be left behind by an America that supports our LGBT friends, neighbors, family members and even our fellow Scouts who made it through the program,” Wahls said. “America needs the values that Scouting has to offer now more than ever, and we cannot afford to lose this great cultural icon.”
In February, President Obama voiced support during an interview that aired before the Super Bowl for lifting the gay ban in the Boy Scouts.
But anti-gay groups are also at work to urge the Boy Scouts to keep the ban on gay youth in place. On Thursday, the Family Research Council ran a half-page advertisement in the Dallas Morning News. The ad identifies five reasons to support the current policy, including saying the change “forces all scouting units to accept openly gay youth.”
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a freshman U.S. House member, took to the House floor this week to criticize what he called the “intolerant left” for efforts such as repealing the gay ban in the Boy Scouts.
“The left’s agenda is not about tolerance, and it’s not about diversity of thought,” Bridenstine said. “It’s about presenting a worldview of relativism, where there is no right and wrong, then using the full force of the government to silence opposition and reshape organizations like the Boy Scouts into instruments for social change.”
Bridenstine concluded,”To my friends on the left, this is not tolerance. But here’s the good news about true tolerance: the most tolerant one of all has the ability to redeem us all.”
But Ferraro dismissed efforts from anti-gay groups, saying they won’t have significant impact and are only an effort to spread hate against LGBT people.
“People like Tony Perkins and the FRC are continuing to paint themselves not as scouting supporters, but as anti-gay activists, and that’s going to make the difference,” Ferraro said. “Their messages are clouded by anti-gay hate, especially when you consider faith leaders and so many officials in the BSA pushing for change.”