Recently, a Missouri Eagle Scout was forcibly removed from his position as a Boy Scout camp counselor when he came out and a lesbian mother was removed from her position as a Pack Leader. There was hope that the Boys Scouts of America would follow the lead of the Girls of Scouts of America and provide a safe and welcoming space for Gay/Bisexual and Transgender boys and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender families. Unfortunately, they have let down a whole community and our allies. It all boils down to this part of their pledge:
“…and morally straight.
You will maintain honest and open relationships with others. You will hold yourself to a high moral standard and be clean in your speech and actions while being faithful to your religious beliefs.”
To me it seems that the Boys Scouts are not holding themselves to the standards in their motto. Much like the failed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Policy of the United States Armed Forces, the Boy Scouts policy of banning "out" Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people as joining as scouts, as well as, prohibiting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people from serving openly as leaders creates an atmosphere of dishonesty and discrimination. To me, this atmosphere is antithetical to the mission of the Boy Scouts.
Furthermore, there is burgeoning support, acceptance and celebration of LGBT people and our families in religious organizations, and countless Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders continue to speak out against LGBT discrimination.
As loving, caring community members we have to ask ourselves this question---What message does this policy send to our young boys and men, to our society? The message for me is clear: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people are less than and that we do not deserve full and equal access to institutions. It is no wonder that the suicide rate for LBGT youth is 4x that of their heterosexual peers.
This is not because we, LGBT people, get messages that we are loved, wanted, included---- it is because we continually receive messages from institutions that we are evil, immoral and unfit leaders. This must and will change. I have seen it happen in my lifetime, from the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and Governer Cuomo signing Marriage Equality into NYS Law last year.
I know, as I was once in the Boy Scouts, that there are good people in the Scouts. I call on these good people to pressure their organization to be open and welcoming to all young people and families. I also urge churches, synagogues, community organizations and individuals who support the Boy Scouts to think about divesting. There are countless organizations that do not have policies that openly discriminate. All our children (LGBT and heterosexual) deserve better.
Joseph Coe is a Community Organizer and Activist in Rockland County.