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Gays and the Boy Scouts of America

Adam Newman | Tuesday, March 26, 2013

As an Eagle Scout, former Boy Scout and current merit badge counselor, scouting has been an instrumental part of my life. From the time I joined Scouts in the second grade to the day I was made an Eagle Scout, scouting presented me with challenges and new opportunities, allowing me to make new friends and learn about the outdoors. This is why I have always been, and continue to be, disappointed in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for continuing its ban on homosexual members. Now that the BSA is finally reviewing this rule, it is important to understand why it must be changed.
There is a major stigma today in our society against homosexuality. People at the very most view it as immoral, and at the very least view it as something outside the mainstream. Popular culture uses “gay” as a substitute for “bad” and “uncool”. For gays, this stigma can ruin lives, break families and lead to anxiety and depression. The Boy Scouts, whether they admit it or not, help add to this stigma by refusing to admit homosexuals, because not accepting homosexuals makes both gays and non-gays believe there is something so wrong with being gay that it merits a ban from America’s most prominent youth organization.
The Boy Scouts also do a disservice to our country as more and more openly gay people serve in positions of power in both government and business. Boy Scouts allows young men to learn not just about a variety of different subjects but also necessary skills to lead such as management, problem-solving and civics. The rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouts (only achieved by 4 percent of Scouts), has made a major impact across all sectors of our country. Important figures who have achieved it include Michael Bloomberg (mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg L.P), Sam Walton (founder of WalMart), Neil Armstrong (first man to walk on the moon), President Gerald Ford and even Steven Spielberg (director). By not allowing gay scouts to participate, the Boy Scouts forgo the opportunity to instill within capable and ambitious youth the knowledge, ethics and skills to serve our country.
The saddest part about the ban is that almost every account from someone who is gay and the bulk of scientific research points to the undisputed conclusion that homosexuality is not something that develops over time, but a trait that someone is born with and that can neither be “managed” nor “cured.” Given that homosexuals can contribute as much to society as heterosexuals, there can be no argument that homosexuality is a crime.
The ban on homosexuals is simply a piece of a larger, unfortunate truth that the Boy Scouts are an antiquated organization badly in need of modernization. The Boy Scouts should not change their fundamental values but should work to open up to all capable boys, including homosexuals. While some may oppose these changes, the majority of Americans are becoming more accepting of gays. Examining public opinion data conducted by Gallup reveals that in 1996, 27 percent of Americans supported gay marriage, while in 2012 the number increased to 53 percent. This number will only continue to increase, just like popular opinion once did for desegregation and other civil rights. As other organizations, such as the United States Armed Forces, move toward full acceptance of gays, the Boys Scouts must also realize that society is moving forward, whether they want it to or not.
Some may argue the Boy Scouts need make no changes, but this is nothing more than a recipe for the decline of the BSA. Offering a traditional learning experience in a world filled with Angry Birds, computers, video games and other technology will make it much harder to recruit young men. Continuing to ban homosexual boys from its ranks will only continue to detract from the Boy Scout’s brand, especially when, according to a Quinnipiac poll, 55 percent of Americans believe the Boy Scouts should drop its ban on gay members, with only 33 percent opposing.
There is no doubt the full inclusion of gays in our society is one of the civil rights movements of our time. There is also no doubt 20 years from now, people will wonder how we could be so backwards as to not allow homosexuals to marry, serve in the armed forces, adopt children or participate in the Boy Scouts. Scouting has honorably served America for more than a century but will voluntarily place itself on the ash heaps of history along with segregated lunch counters, drinking fountains and public schools if it continues its ban on gay members.

Adam Newman is a senior political science major. He can be reached at
[email protected]
    The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.