The Boy Scouts of America made headlines this week by amending their admission policies to allow gay youth to become members of the organization, after 103 years of exclusion. Its new resolution states that "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." But, what about adults? The BSA's new policy does not apply to adult scouts, which is why the organization remains anti-gay.
The BSA will only truly make a leap forward if it works to dispel the mixed messages sent to children about the LGBT community, the bigotry harbored against gay leaders, and the religious organizations' pressure to conform to narrow guidelines of morality.
It remains unclear why 18 is the magic number, the cutoff age where being a Boy Scout and being gay can no longer coexist. Is it the antiquated fear that a Boy Scout Leader who is also a member of the LGBT community may influence the youth in a way that is inconsistent with the BSA mission statement? That one's sexual orientation affects the way in which he or she is a role model?
Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrell, who was dismissed from her leadership role in the organization for being a lesbian, points out that BSA's attitude toward gay teens versus gay adults is nebulous and confusing for the youth. “One year after sending a letter ousting me as my son’s leader, the Boy Scouts are once again forcing me to look my children in the eyes and tell them that our family isn’t good enough.” Indeed, BSA's message confuses the children who will now be more compelled to accept each other, but may continue to harbor unfounded prejudice against gay leaders who are just as deserving of acceptance.
Sadly, even after decades of LGBT activism, proponents of the ban for gay adults are confounded by the stereotypical belief that there is something "mysterious and dangerous about gay and lesbian adults." The conservative Family Research Council tweeted: "Sadly, the @boyscouts' legacy of producing great leaders has become yet another casualty of moral compromise." Where many parents still seem to believe that gay men and women are not appropriate role models for their children, one wonders whether they are entitled to their opinions, or if this uphill battle is worth fighting for the same reasons why the current vote proved to be a success.
It seems tempting to blame religious organizations for this narrow perception on sexuality in the BSA, and Southern Baptist Church leaders have surely urged for the continuance of the gay teen member ban. However, groups like the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, BSA's biggest sponsor, assented to the initial vote, giving hope that they may support the strides to also lift the ban against LGBT adult leaders.