The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is an institution that has served our country well. We understand how much Scouting has done for our nation and have personally witnessed the benefits it offers to our youth and communities. Recently, however, the BSA reaffirmed a membership policy that bars gay youth and leaders from participating in the organization.
The BSA’s decision to continue a policy of discrimination follows the high-profile forced resignations of Scout leaders like Jennifer Tyrrell and Greg Bourke — both of whom were removed from an organization in which they have been exemplary role models. Youth are also being discriminated against for reasons outside of their control and, in Ryan Andresen’s case, denied the Boy Scout’s highest rank despite a lifetime of work. More than one million people have signed a Change.org petition in opposition to the ban.
Many prominent individuals, celebrities, politicians and business leaders support this campaign to end discrimination. In a rare moment of bipartisanship, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney agreed that the ban is wrong for Scouting’s future. Randall Stevenson, the CEO of AT&T and incoming BSA President, and Jim Turley, a fellow BSA board member and the CEO of Ernst & Young, have both expressed their disagreement with the policy. As Corporate America modernizes its philanthropic giving guidelines, many companies and their foundations are finding that the BSA’s ban removes it from eligibility to receive contributions. In recent months, Intel, UPS, Merck, Major League Soccer, and many United Way chapters have all postponed their donations until the ban is rescinded.
This ban is also having a deleterious effect on membership in local units. In many communities where equality is widely accepted, parents are choosing not to enroll their sons or fund an organization that they feel engages in discrimination.
Further, we believe a blanket ban hurts youth by forcing gay scouts to keep silent about who they are, especially if they are being bullied. It also stigmatizes the children of same sex couples, whose parents are prevented from being a part of their children’s Scouting involvement, and who are being told that their families are inferior. This isn’t a hypothetical situation, either. For more than a decade, the American Medical Association has described this policy as potentially “psychologically traumatizing” to young people.
For these reasons, we would vehemently urge the BSA to adopt a non-discrimination policy.
In closing, we completely agree with this part of Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca’s statement: “We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.” Scouting has always been a home to diversity — we are asking not for sweeping new change, but for the continuation of what has always been true. We hope that Scouting will continue to grow and flourish in the United States.