Sunday, May 26, 2013

Scouts' (Dis)honor


Some issues are simply too thorny to resolve, especially when both sides of the ledger are entrenched in their positions.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to reach common ground.  While they seem desirable on the surface, compromises don’t always work.  
One example that stands out is the now defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that President Clinton was forced to accept if he wanted gay and lesbian individuals to be able to legally serve in the military.  Neither advocates for gay service members nor anti-gay opponents in the military and Congress were satisfied with the deal.  It was a total flop.

Now we have another so-called compromise from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) which once again satisfies few and disappoints many—from both sides.
On May 23, BSA by an historic vote of 61 percent of the national delegates removed the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation.  But left in place was the organization’s membership policy for all adult leaders of the BSA, which means gay adult scout leaders are still banned. 

This created a situation where a gay youth could become a scout and then be forced to resign when he reaches age 18.  The message is mixed: you’re OK if you’re a gay kid, but not so when you become an adult.  Gay parents of scouts would be barred from being leaders in the organization.
Understandably, the anticipated decision not to end the ban on gay adult leaders elicited significant reactions in the LGBT community. 

PFLAG National perhaps said it best in a statement: “Inclusion, by its very nature, cannot be selective: either you are a welcoming organization or you are not. In going halfway with this policy, the BSA suggests that their members are only capable of being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous and kind until their 18th birthdays. Once taught, do these traits diminish or disappear once a child comes of age? Shouldn’t being a scout serve as the best training to then lead other scouts in the future? And for same-sex parents who want to participate as leaders in their children’s troops, should the message be that their commitment to their child’s scouting activities is suspect?”
What I find appalling about the policy is the continuation of the stereotype that adult gay men are predatory and must be kept away from children. The unstated implication is that gay men have the desire to prey on minors or even recruit them to play on the gay team.  That is purely inaccurate, discriminatory and inflammatory nonsense.

The same fiction was used by opponents of President Clinton’s initial attempt to stop the ban of gays and lesbians in the military.  Remember how they instilled fear in members of Congress with the “shower” scenario?  “How can there be unit cohesion and effectiveness if openly gay soldiers took showers with their straight comrades?  How can they sleep in the same barracks?”  As we know, this fear-mongering proved to be total bunk.  The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has not caused problems within the military.
That gay men should not be allowed to be around children is preposterous.  Incidences of sexual abuse of minors are mostly perpetrated by straight individuals like relatives, clergy and even former college football coaches. 

In our society, children are around adults—gay and straight—all the time.  They are teachers, school bus drivers, pediatricians, police officers, barbers, soccer coaches—you name it.  While many of the homophobes object to openly gay adults being around kids, life goes on anyway with nary a problem.
BSA should be no different.  But religious organizations like the Mormon Church, which has a big footprint on the BSA, employs the same tired arguments and stereotyping that were frequently heard during the efforts to achieve marriage equality.  The policy that bans gay adult leaders caters to that church and other right wing religious institutions and does not make things right.

Though gay kids will now be allowed in the Scouts, the continued discrimination against gay adults would send the wrong and confusing and precarious message to the millions of young scouts—straight or gay.
“The decision to lift the ban is the first time the organization has welcomed openly gay youth — an important step in the right direction,” Ted Martin, Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania acknowledged in a statement.  “But the Boy Scouts of America still has a long way to go before it will regain the trust of its donors, members, and the American people, a majority of which think this ban must end not only for kids, but for adults too.  Maintaining the ban on gay adults sends a dangerous message to young people that gay adults, like their friends' parents or even their teachers, can't be trusted.  By banning gay parents, the Boy Scouts are giving credence to long-debunked myths and stereotypes that promote fear, misunderstanding, discrimination, and hate.”

Eventually this policy will change.  But for now, this is just another failed attempt at compromise while BSA basically compromised itself.

1 comment:

roftd said...

Spot on as always, Steve (although youre atill nicer to the Religious Right perspective than Im willing to be.)