Boy Scouts Consider Policy Change on Gay Scouting

Update: National organization would leave it up to local groups to decide whether to accept gay Scouts and leaders; Moraga Scout's case helped focus issue.

Updated, 6:00 p.m. Monday, comments from Karen Andresen.

The national organization of the Boy Scouts of America is considering a dramatic change in its controversial policy of excluding gay people as Scouts and leaders.

The announcement of the possible change came Monday, leaving it up to local organizations to decide how to address the issue. Under the proposed change, said BSA spokesman Deron Smith, "the Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents," the Associated Press reported.

The policy came under intense scrutiny last year when Moraga Scout Ryan Andresen, 18, was denied his Eagle Scout badge after he had come out to his troop and leaders as gay. Andresen's family organized a petition drive on Change.org, which had 468,902 signatures at 12:20 p.m. Monday. Andresen's Eagle Scout project was planning and creating a 288-tile "tolerance wall" that now decorates a wall at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in Moraga. 

A policy change is long overdue, said Karen Andresen, Ryan Andresen's mother. She credited hard work from Scouts For Equality, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliances Against Defamation) and Change.org.

As for her son, Karen Andresen wrote in an email, "He can be content knowing that he was intrumental in ending discrimination and making the world a better place. History is being made because of his case, & others, and for this, he is my hero, and a hero to many."

"I hope that the BSA Board does actually approve this change,” stated Eric Andresen of Moraga, Ryan's father, in a news release. “It’s the right thing to do, and would mean so much to Ryan, his mother and our family, and to thousands of other scouts who have been forced into very difficult, emotionally charged situations because of the existing ban."

From the Boy Scouts of America statement:

"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”  

“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” stated GLAAD President Herndon Graddick, president of GLAAD, in a news release. “Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect.”

George March January 29, 2013 at 06:48 PM
All I can say (assuming that the policy does actually change) is bloody about time! It is ridiculous to presume that a gay scout or leader is going to impart their personal beliefs/mannerisms/ways/lifestyle any more than one who is Mormon, vegan, left-handed or ADHD. The joy of the Boy Scouting program for youth is learning about, enjoying and respecting the environment and how to interact in it; learning about leadership; learning new things (the great variety of merit badges); learning to understand and respect difference; learning about yourself and your personal physical and mental strengths and abilities, and fostering those things in yourself. Someday, maybe, the BSA will even join the rest of the Scouting world and allow girls in the program! (yes, I do know that girls are in Venturing, Explorers and Sea Scouts)
Jed January 29, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Dan Perkins January 29, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Agreed Robert - this is a cop out.
Clintonista80 January 29, 2013 at 07:50 PM
How will parents be able to find out whether a troop is lead by a straight or gay scout leader?
Stacey J. Weinberger January 29, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Ryan did the work of an Eagle Scout and was denied receiving the honor solely on being gay. He didn't come out and then demand a badge.
Amanda January 29, 2013 at 08:33 PM
This is exactly what I was thinking. The Mormons excluded "people of color" from their cult-er-church until they realized they were missing a huge financial opportunity by converting everyone, not just white people.
Dorothy Coakley January 29, 2013 at 09:01 PM
Being a teenager is rough under the best of circumstances. I'm wondering if there are any statistics on the number of Eagle Scout recipients who attempted suicide *after* either "coming out" or realizing their orientation. (Previously heterosexually married gays are numerous...there are strong societal pressures on young folks to try to be "normal.")
Kathy A. January 29, 2013 at 09:11 PM
agreed, c5. i would prefer that the national organization just said that discrimination is always wrong. but this is a big step forward, and it has happened because of the long hard work of many local groups and scouts and former scouts and others who support the good work that scouting does. i am that mom who pulled the car over and delivered an impassioned lecture when gay jokes broke out in the back seat. i am that co-worker who applauded my friend marching in the gay pride parade, in full scout dress. i'm also a mom who helped lead a cub scout pack, and we supported the boy scout activities later. one of my son's close friends and fellow scouts came out later; i'm glad that at least in our dealings, fairness and gaining skills and working together and so on were the things that were stressed. i'm proud that ryan is from our local mt. diablo/silverado council, and that his story finally pushed this issue to the point of a major change in policy.
morning glory January 29, 2013 at 09:34 PM
haha good question. i don't want anyone hetro or homo to announce anything "sexual" to my kids. i guess i am more in the Don"t ask and don't tell theory. i am sick of teachers and coaches talking about their "live in boyfriend or girlfriend" to our kids without thinking it's a big deal. don't talk to our children about your sex life!
Chris Nicholson January 29, 2013 at 11:19 PM
If they make a change, I'm glad it was public pressure and not government coercion that prompted it. Local control is a decent outcome, but it does raise tough doctrinal questions for the national organization. Either being an "open and avowed" gay person is compatible with their standards, or it's not. Will a gay Eagle from SF be regarded as a "legitimate Eagle" in Utah (I'm talking about scouts, not bars)? Also, they were conspicuously silent on the agnostic/atheist angle here. In my mind, that is a tougher thing to be flexible on. Pretty tough conclusion for Ryan if they embrace his gayness but reject his (alleged) agnosticism.
Dive Turn Work January 29, 2013 at 11:39 PM
Spouses are mentioned all the time in conversation or passing. "My wife and I went snowboarding last weekend," for example. Unless the kids in the troop have a mental impairment they will deduce that their scout leader is gay if he says, "My husband and I went snowboarding last weekend." In neither instance has either scout leader done anything wrong or said anything sexual. But, hey, don't let reason and rational thought stand in your way of a good rant.
Dive Turn Work January 29, 2013 at 11:41 PM
Morningglory - Perhaps you missed the fact that 18,000 gay couples got legally married in CA. Those folks don't have a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend. They have a spouse. Additionally, a domestic partner is equivalent to a spouse under the laws of this state. Please learn the fact so your comparisons aren't so nonsensical.
Jose January 30, 2013 at 12:05 AM
We don't often see that because they generally fly Sou' by Sou'west airline.
Don Ford January 30, 2013 at 12:31 AM
Hello...I am the Scoutmaster for Albany's Troop 14. We are the premier Scout Troop of the east bay. For years we have ignored the terrible national policy to discriminate against Gays. In fact, along time ago when I was Cub Master for Albany's Pack 3 we wrote a policy statement which I brought to T14. "Troop 14 is a reflection of the values and standards of the community which it serves. Troop 14 will not discriminate against anyone and welcomes all". We will rejoice when the anti-gay policy is formally changed!
Chris J Kapsalis January 30, 2013 at 03:07 AM
I have a question. Why are others concerned so much with other peoples sexuality? Why does it seem to be an obsession for some? I never think about it. Just as I don't think about what my parents did or may do. Yikes. I sure as hell don' think about what our married friends do, others, Gay or strait. So why do people care if someone is Gay or not unless they have interests in them sexually? Or loves another of the same sex? The only reasons I can possibly think of is it disturbs them because of they themselves have feelings for the same sex to some degree and are ashamed of it. Are not secure in their sexuality or have a perverse thought process that likes to think about what others do in the bedroom, all of which are something you have to work on, not them. It is none of your business, and if it is, get help. I can see some homophobes protest too much. Why? You have to prove you are not Gay or Bi so much you fixate on them and how wrong they are to prove to the world that you are not what you are, mixed up sexually and most likely at the every least bi curious. Get over it. Sex and sexuality is a confusing thing, we all, most of us, go through puberty and have feelings we never had before. Mine happen to have been for girls. Others for boys. Some for both. But I have never in my life gave a crap if someone was gay or not, or ever sat there and thought about what others do or do not do in the bedroom. It is creepy.
karen January 31, 2013 at 05:47 AM
Although this is a step in the right direction, the decision will be left to local groups who sponsor scouting units. This means that conservative church groups, the majority, will still discriminate, while others, can drop the shameful exclusion, I wish the BSA would take a stand against discrimination for everyone, like the World Organization of Scouting intended. How can we be so backwards in this country? Why do we lack so much compassion? Why are the religious groups the most bigoted, and less accepting? How can troop 212 present so many lies, when they should uphold the scout oath? Why is it fair that someone can pass an Eagle Board of Review, and not get his Eagle Award? Why do people have to feel shame about themselves for being born a certain way? Why is this ever OK???
lovelafayette January 31, 2013 at 06:31 AM
These are the letters of betrayed Eagle Scouts who returned their Eagles in protest of the July 1012 reaffirmation by BSA of their policy to legally discriminate against gays. Powerful, sad statements. http://eaglebadges.tumblr.com/
karen January 31, 2013 at 06:40 AM
Dorothy, I don't know the exact numbers, but many have contacted me personally, and many have been severely depressed/suicidal and have self harming behavior(s). People don't understand how hard it is for these teens. They feel so much shame for who they are and scared to say anything. Many have said that Ryan showed so much courage, and if they would have said something, others would not have to suffer. They tell me how they struggle in this world, everyday. I know first hand how Ryan struggled, and continues to struggle. I know what the rejection from the Boy Scouts, did to him, and continues...The leading cause of death in gay teens is suicide. The hardest part of this journey is the gay teens that contact me, telling their stories of attempted suicide, telling me that they are not accepted by their community, or family; many from Utah, and other conservative areas. This has changed me and my heart is very heavy. I tell my son everyday that I love him, I pray for a more compassionate nation.
Jim McCrea January 31, 2013 at 07:48 PM
And here’s a problematic twist in case you didn’t know it: http://www.tidewaterbsa.com/Tax%20Exemp%20FAQs.htm “TAX-EXEMPT STATUS OF BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA UNITS AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO UNITS Frequently Asked Questions Is our pack or troop considered tax-exempt by the IRS? That depends on who sponsors your pack, troop, or unit. The only time a unit can be considered “tax-exempt” is if its sponsoring organization is also tax-exempt. The BSA National Council grants a charter to religious organizations, service clubs, businesses, and others who want to sponsor a Scout unit. A unit is actually “owned” by its chartered organization. Chartered organizations vary widely in tax status, but the tax status of your unit is the same as that of your chartering partner. ” So all of those nice little church sponsored discriminating BSA units will have donations to them being tax deductible. Non-tax favored BSA troops that choose NOT to discriminate against gay boys and men do NOT have their donations considered as tax deductible.
Jim McCrea January 31, 2013 at 07:50 PM
The Eagle bar in SF no longer exists.
Claire January 31, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Jim, that is incorrect. An independent chartering organization can file for Federal and state tax exempt status, just as one sponsored by a church would have to. Check the non-profit orgs registered just in CA...hundreds of them are Boy Scout troops.
Carol Parker January 31, 2013 at 09:32 PM
At the time we pulled our sons out and went to the local media about our decision to do so we felt we were making a stronger statement than we could make from within the organization. Remember, this was many years ago when the whole issue was just surfacing and it was not being openly talked about at the troop level. If my sons were in scouts now and I discovered the policy, I might have left them in and tried to work with other parents from inside to change the policy. At that time we were the lone rangers in town, at least in their troops. I would be bothered, however, about scout dues I was paying going to the Texas headquarters that still won't take a position agaist discrimination in every troop - not just those that want to accept Gay scouts.
Dover February 01, 2013 at 03:15 AM
That's not quite right, Amanda, but it's a common misconception. Elijah Abel would also beg to differ. There is a difference between being a member of the LDS church and holding the priesthood.
MIKE ALFORD February 01, 2013 at 03:21 AM
I think that morning glory & J D have Made more sence than this whole group put together ! When teachers START doing their jobs That Is Teaching ! And Quit Telling Students about their own personal Lives ! And Also I Dont Care To Hear About ONE MORE Homosexual And How We Need To Accept Their Life Style ! Hey If You Like That Life Style --- GO FOR IT ! --- We Dont Need To Hear How Special It Is And Just How Brave They Are !!!! ------ Because Thats Their Thing ! ---- If They Keep BRINGING UP THIS LIFE Style ----- Well Maybe WE HETROSEXUALS Should DEMAND Time ! and WRITE ABOUT OUR SEXUALITY And Our Different HABITS ---- OUR EXPERENCES ---- How we Should All Just Get Into A Big Auditorim And Just Talk About The Wonders Of SEX and Just How Wonderfull OUR Personal experences With HETROSEXUAL SEX is !!! Than WE SHOULD DEMAND THAT YOU ALL LISTEN & ACCEPT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF OUR EXPERENCES !! AND THAT EVERYONE IF YOU AGREE WITH OUR PERSONAL SEX EXPERENCES ----- SEE Than Maybe Than You Would Finally Get As SICK & TIRED of Hearing the same Bleading heart B.S. That you People Keep Feeding US !! ------- SEX ! --- IS YOUR OWN PERSONAL VIEW --- QUIT TRYING TO CHANGE OURS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MIKE ALFORD February 01, 2013 at 07:48 AM
you know ---- You ask for a persons oppinon --- I gave mine I did not disrespect Anyone just a point of View and prospective of what Hetrosexuals Think and do as to another side of reality ? Why than is it O.K. to just Hear And Pander To Homosexuals and their Views ------ But To Hear From The Hetrosexual Side ---- Boy ! How Is This Freedom Of Speach or another Side Of Reality ? You Should WRITE at the Start Of Every Topic About Homosexuals --- That Hetrosexuals Need Not Commant ! Unless Ofcoarse You Agree With The GAY point Of View !
Dorothy Coakley February 01, 2013 at 09:29 PM
Lafayette: I've forwarded the aforementioned website to many of my friends. Its a very powerful and moving testimonial to the dilemma facing those who have already earned their badges. (David Guterson, author of "Snow Falling On Cedars" was one such entry.) As I write, I'm thinking of the small but steady stream of young teens that I've during my decades of being a public librarian...who resolve their inner conflicts by killing themselves over this issue. (I've known a seminary student, a young soldier and an African-American Muslim who struggled and died before any of us knew about their inner turmoil. Each one could have be a productive engaged adult...) Again, thanks for posting this website!
Kathy A. February 01, 2013 at 11:06 PM
Thank you, lafayette. And thank you, Dorothy.
Ann W. February 02, 2013 at 12:59 AM
@Mike A. I am glad that morning glory and Jed make sense to to you, but it is quite clear that this issue of discrimination, plain and simple does not make sense to many many people. Most of the comments on this website are pro ending the ban the BSA has held for decades. You are not going to change their opinions nor mine. As a heterosexual married mother, I accept homosexuality as a different normal to heterosexuality. Hey we are all just people at the end of the day and no one should be treated as "less than." The fact is that when anyone who feels different than the "norm" stands up against discrimination that is BRAVE!!! Ryan in my book has courage beyond his years. Your comments and ranting on sadden my heart...so much negativity and hate. Perhaps if the postings here are so disturbing to you perhaps you should not look at them!
Kathy A. February 02, 2013 at 03:59 AM
Alan, thanks.
KMC February 04, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Well put, Ann.


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