Boy Scouts Open Doors For Gay Leadership

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The Boy Scouts of America removed its ban on openly gay adult leaders and employees on Monday.

During a telephone conference earlier this week, the BSA national executive board voted in favor of the resolution which goes into effect immediately, according to the BSA website

“Due to the social, political and legal changes taking place in our country and in our movement, I did not believe the adult leadership policy could be sustained,” said Dr. Robert Gates, president of BSA, in a video about the policy change.

Boy Scout Flag Saluteat Gerald R. Ford MuseumBoy Scout Flag Salute at Gerald R. Ford Museum.
Boy Scout Flag Saluteat Gerald R. Ford MuseumBoy Scout Flag Salute at Gerald R. Ford Museum.” Photo by Steven Depolo via Creative Commons

Steven Depolo

The resolution allows charter organizations to continue choosing leaders who agree with their moral beliefs and fit the national standard.

The BSA’s stance on homosexuality became a national issue in 2000 when the Supreme Court ruled that the organization had the constitutional right to exclude gay members.

Incidents like the one in 2012 involving Jennifer Tyrrell, a den mother from Ohio who was removed from her son’s scouting unit because she was a lesbian, kept the organization in the news. 

Despite BSA allowing openly gay youths to join the scouts in 2013, the organization lost corporate support from companies like Intel and UPS.

Justin Bickford was an active scout from the age of six until reaching the highest BSA level of achievement, Eagle Scout, in high school.

“That was a very large part of my childhood,” Bickford said. “Definitely had an impact on my formative years.”

Over the years, Brickford noticed how the organization’s policies were negatively impacting people he was close with, prompting him to become involved in seeking equality. As a result, he co-founded Scouts for Equality in 2012.

Scouts for Equality is an organization for current and former scouts working to end discrimination in the BSA.

Bickford said his initial reaction to Monday’s decision was “yay” and involved a lot of clapping.

Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, believes the decision was a progressive one.

“As of today, the Boy Scouts of America is an organization that is looking forward, not back,” Wahls wrote in a press release.

Bickford hopes people who were previously opposed to the BSA because of its stance on homosexuality will now become involved.

Scouts for Equality still has some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults though, according to the press release.

Robert Bauer, assistant troop master of troop 614, chartered by First Christian Church of Gainesville, said he would keep the provision that allows charter organizations to choose leaders based on their own criteria.

“Trying to force a church to change its religious position, especially since the boy scouts is supposed to be a faith based organization, I think that’s reprehensible,” Bauer said.

The provision for charter organizations allows churches to adhere to their core values.

However, Bauer recognizes the significance of the BSA’s decision and what it means for the organization.

“I think what is most important about this decision is the Boy Scouts have acknowledged that everyone is entitled to their own opinion to this matter and they’re not forcing everyone to follow an opinion,” Bauer said.

The troop leader was a cub scout in his youth, and his two sons are involved with the BSA.

Michael Wohl, Gainesville resident and former assistant scout master, was pleased by the BSA’s decision. He became involved with the scouts when his son joined as a Cub Scout.

He remembers the opportunities for growth, leadership and character development the BSA membership passed on to his son.

“It’s my belief that the membership of the Boy Scouts is in a declining phase and that this is getting them with the times,” Wohl said. “This will actually help them grow in the future.”

Bauer believes this is a personal matter.

“I believe everyone’s opinions have validity,” Bauer said.

About Susan Huang

Susan is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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