Inside the Boy Scout Battle to Repeal the Gay Ban

A fast changing America threatens to leave scouting and its current rules against gays behind.

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Tim Sharp / REUTERS

The entrance to Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas, on Feb. 5, 2013.

Hundreds of scouts and their leaders will descend on a vacation resort north of Dallas this week to, among other things, take a vote on this new statement: “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

The vote, set for Thursday, will steer the course for one of the nation’s largest youth development programs, which currently bans openly gay scouts and scout leaders from joining the decades old organization.  A simple majority of some 1400 members of the Boy Scouts’ National Council will carry the day.

Activists on both sides have been organizing for months. Gay rights groups like GLAAD and Scouts for Equality launched an intensive ground game, mobilizing eligible voters to support overturning the ban. The Family Research Council (FRC) and its allies like OnMyHonor.net, a group created by Florida lawyer and Eagle Scout John Stemberger, jumped in with a counter attack. The stakes intensified quietly announced on April 19 that the proposed membership change would only permit gay youth, effectively continuing the ban on gay scoutmasters and adult leaders.

The Boy Scouts have, for more than 100 years, sought to represent the best of American values–strong work ethics, care for community and honorable character. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), who supports the FRC position, says, “If we can’t stand up for the Boy Scouts of America, then what does the United States of America stand for?”

But a fast changing America threatens to leave scouting and its rules behind. Half of the country supports gay marriage, according to Gallup, and the Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America have all opened their doors to gay members and staff. If BSA denies gay youth membership, argues GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro, “They might as well take America out their name.”

Scouts for Equality, a group created by 21-year-old Zach Wahls, a straight eagle scout with two mothers, has staged perhaps the most intense offensive. The group has 15,000 members, 6,700 of whom are eagle scouts, the highest achievement level in scouting. Wahls also has at least 800 “super volunteers,” and that’s in addition to his twenty full-time staffers, over half of whom are on the ground mobilizing voters in key council regions for their cause.

The key to their field program is a data-crunching lesson Wahls learned from Obama campaign strategy. In February, Scouts for Equality hired both 270 Strategies, a firm founded by Jeremy Bird, who designed the Obama campaign’s get-out-the-vote operation, and Ken Schulz, an Obama regional field director, to run their national field outreach. Wahls put together a spreadsheet of the country’s 280 local BSA councils, determined how many votes each council would have, and cross-referenced that list with a range of data points to determine the councils where they would focus their outreach energies. “We identified the most competitive councils, not necessarily the ones that we were most likely to win,” he explains.

Once Scouts for Equality narrowed their focus to less than 200 councils, they logged more than 1,500 leader-to-leader conversations. In April, Scouts for Equality also hired Global Strategy Group, a strategic communications firm, to help hone its message. Wahls says their grassroots funding has been “incredible,” but quoting a scouting motto, he adds, “‘A scout is thrifty,’ so we were able to make our support go as far as we can.”

GLAAD has worked closely with Scouts for Equality, and both groups have partnered with the petition website Change.org to gather signatures in support of the ban’s repeal. Every day this week leading up to the vote, GLAAD has planned actions for people to take. They created a graphic of an “inclusive scouting” badge for supporters to share as their social media profile pictures, and they have asked celebrities to participate in the social media component this week. In March, singer Carly Rae Jepsen dropped out of a concert for the Boy Scouts because of the ban, and Madonna wore a Boy Scouts uniform on the GLAAD Media Awards stage.

GLAAD has also targeted faith communities, which represent over 70% of the chartered organizations that sponsor scouting troops across the country. Ross Murray, who leads GLAAD’s faith outreach, sent email blasts this weekend to over 3,000 people—many of whom are heads of religious organizations—asking them to have conversations about the ban with at least five people during their religious services’ coffee hours this weekend. “We are not trying to change worship—it is Pentecost Sunday—but let’s have some targeted conversations about why [repealing the ban] is the faithful thing to do,” he explains.

The defensive campaign is more tight-lipped. Family Research Council president Tony Perkins assigned his senior vice president Rob Schwarzwalder to head up a Boy Scout task force in late February. FRC would not comment on whether or not they have identified the 1,400 voting members. Fundraising, according to Schwarzwalder, has been “very modest,” and they have relied primarily on electronic communications. “This is much more of an ‘in the family’ operation,” he says. “It has been appropriately behind the scenes.”

Perkins’ created a “Stand with Scouts Sunday,” an online simulcast for churches that aired on May 5, featuring Texas governor Rick Perry, who is an Eagle Scout. “The fact is this is a private organization, their values and principles have worked for a century now, and for pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because it just happens to be the flavor of the month, so to speak, and to tear apart one of the great organizations that has served millions of young men…that is just not appropriate, and I frankly hope the American people will stand up and say, ‘Not on my watch,’” says Perry.

The arguments to keep the current membership policy strive to combat changing cultural attitudes about marriage in America today. One pastor in the “Stand with Scouts” webcast, Robert Hall of Calvary Chapel Rio Rancho in New Mexico, made the FRC case clear. “Today many people do not want to hear the truth about the choices they make which are eating away at their lives,” he says, comparing speaking out against the gay lifestyle with telling his ungrateful neighbor that termites were eroding his new house. “They are not happy when we point out the resulting cultural trends which are undermining the foundations of our nation and threatening our children.”

Another scout in the webcast raised concerns that accepting gay scouts would increase unwanted gay sexual activity in scout programs. “On a campout, you are in a tent and it is closed off to the outside world,” he said. “Me, at 11 or 12, having my buddy come on to me, I wouldn’t have known what to do at that age, especially if it were an older scout who I look up to.” Another Eagle Scout argued that a scout must be “clean,” according to scout law, and “Homosexual acts are not considered clean.” A mother, who homeschools her 13 children, six of whom are Eagle Scouts, explained, “I wouldn’t be comfortable with my girls having a campout with a straight male, so I also would not be comfortable with my boys having homosexuals watching over them, because I do not know what is going to happen at that point.”

Whether or not those tactics work remains to be seen. Only 80 churches watched the live webcast, but more than 1,800 small groups and individuals tuned in and the hour-long segment currently has over 11,600 views on its website. FRC also has materials available for download on its website so voting members can read its position. Last Friday, FRC hosted rallies in 40 cities, and the group has worked closely with Stemberger, who created OnMyHonor.net to organize oppose to the resolution. OnMyHonor.net hired Shirley and Bannister to promote their outreach efforts.

Opponents of the policy change received a setback when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the church group that sponsors the largest number of scouting troops—announced in late April that it was “satisfied” with BSA’s proposed membership change, saying it “constructively addresses” the issue. While some have called the statement an endorsement of the change, the church has not taken steps either to effect or prevent the change. Schwarzwalder, who says he is not too familiar with organizing efforts in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, calls their statement, “unfortunately ambivalent at best.”

All the players–Schwazwalder, Stemberger, Wahls, and Ferraro, along with hundreds of scouting families on both sides of the issue–will all be on the ground in Texas this week. Security at the vote will be tight. There will be barcoded badges, special marks on the barcoded badges, scanning procedures, government issued IDs, and a strict voting verification process. The results will be announced at approximately 5 p.m. local time Thursday.

MORE: Boy Scout ‘Perversion Files’: Law Firm Releases Files on 1,200 Alleged Sexual Abusers

PHOTOS: LIFE with the Boy Scouts, 1971: Photos from an Era of Change

112 comments
thegreat_us
thegreat_us

The boy scouts of America's oath is On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Note that the Boy Scout Oath has traditionally been considered to have three promises. Those three promises are delineated by the semicolons in the Oath, which divide it into three clauses. The three promises of the Scout Oath are, therefore:

  • Duty to God and country,
  • Duty to other people, and
  • Duty to self

DUTY TO GOD AND COUNTRY: Your family and religious leaders teach you to know and serve God. By following these teachings, you do your duty to God.  

A woman can not be a leader to the boy scouts as well a man can not become a leader in the girl scouts. People are afraid they might sexual abusers and they are right. Some have done that. What will stop gays from becoming leaders? What I see is nothing... Gay were not before allowed to be leaders.. They will go to courts and say they can become leaders.

Vision with out action is a day dream, Action without vision is a nightmare. I am saying if the courts  would check out history on so many things, this would not be allowed. Our decisions or our choices come with our consequences. Boy scouts what are going to be your consequences?

Tyler Ryan Katz
Tyler Ryan Katz

Jonathan, yes there are. Otherwise, schools would not have GSA organizations. According to the Washington Times on April 14, 2013: "Sexual preference typically emerges during the mid-childhood and young teen years and this is the same period when one discovers a potential for LGB." Also, the same article states: "40 years of study indicates homosexuality is not a personal choice."

solardowork
solardowork

You cannot serve GOD and the devil at the same time 

THE BOY SCOUTS ALL OF US SERVE OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE
LORD GOD.

EVERY BOY SCOUT I EVER KNEW HELPED OTHERS.

SIN IS A SIN WEATHER GREAT OR SMALL IT IS ALL WRONG AND WICKED.

Boy Scout Leaders Sinning deliberately after knowledge of the truth from our Lord given to us in the  Bible is a sin you do not want to do. You all need to read "MARK 9:42"   Very soon the day of the Lord's wrath REV 6:12 will be on all sinners. Making our Lord Angry is not what you want to do repent while you still can.

December 24-26,2013 all on Earth will see.

January 14-16, 2014 all will pray for forgiveness.

"THE LORD WILL SAY"

"MATTHEW 7:23, LUKE 13:27"


The wicked will try to tear anything good apart.

Boy Scouts from around the globe meet the first Saturday of every month at
Dillingham Airfield Hawaii. Military and Ret. Military Pilots and Pilots from
around the planet are Honored to teach Scouts to become are next leaders by
helping them become Pilots.

Hawaii Aviation Explorer Post 2013

- AcroFlight International Glider Motorglider School

THE AEROBATIC and AIRMANSHIP SPECIALISTS -

The SCHOTT FAMILY has give millions to the BOY SCOUTS FOR ONE REASON ALONE, AS
ARE FOREFATHERS THAT WE ALL STAND FOR " UNITED WE STAND IN OUR LORD GOD WE
TRUST"

"(" When Injustice Becomes Law Rebellion Becomes Duty " THOMAS
JEFFERSON ).

("United We Will Always Stand in GOD We Trust"

George Washington and Johann Paul Schott 12/24/1776. 3:45AM)

("In GOD We Trust")

The United States of America’s Motto July 30, 1956.

King David’s Motto 3,000 years ago.

Soon all the World will Pray to Our Lord GOD and Savior Jesus Christ.

"United We Will Always Stand in Our Lord GOD and Savior Jesus Christ We
Trust"

True Americans

True Patriots

GOD Bless

and May HE Guide you all.

The Lord’s Little Helper.

Paul Felix Schott.

Supporting the BOY SCOUTS FOR MORE THEN 50 YEARS

Photo

of the BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA about to rise OLD GLORY FOR THE FIRST TIME BACK UP ON THE NORTH EAST SIDE OF THE MILITARY BASE IN MORE THEN 50 YEARS.

MANY THANKS TO STEVE LOWREY FOR LETTING US DO SO.

MaxVeritas
MaxVeritas

Delegates “succumbed to a concerted and manipulative effort by the national BSA leadership despite the BSA’s own survey showing 61 percent of its members in opposition to changing the policy.
So just what is homosexuality?
In two words it's, "gender segregation" which is self imposed by homosexuals. Furthermore it's sexist and discriminatory in nature as well since it opposes each respective gender when pairing for love or marriage, which in actuality for same-sex couples is NOT marriage by our time honored definition in the US which was enshrined in the 1967 Loving case, that being marriage of opposites.

*segregate: to separate, withdraw, or go apart; separate from the main body and collect in one place; become segregated
To close be it known before man and God, I am not whining about this, what it does is truly sadden me to no end as this paths destination is eternal separation from God, which is a horrible way to fulfill prophesy and to make matters worse many professing Christians are on the same path.
1 Tim 4:1-The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons 

Anthony Kenworthy
Anthony Kenworthy

Yes it would be better than infecting real boys and not confusing them

JamesA.Weaks
JamesA.Weaks

The vote is on Thursday.  The results should be known early in the evening.  The resolution is incoherent and poorly thought out and it is entirely the wrong thing to do.  More info on why here: www.anailinhisplace.net/timelink

Tyler Ryan Katz
Tyler Ryan Katz

^Kristy, you are making a generalization. Sex offender lists exist for a reason. There are straight pedophiles, too.

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

But There are gay pedophiles and opening a door to give them an opportunity to be alone a night with boys is stupid, and naive.

Eric Pulliam
Eric Pulliam

Good to know idiocy isn't dead, thanks Dave.

David Lautz
David Lautz

You're an absolute idiot if you don't think this is ringing the dinner bell for pedophiles.

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

Yall are so naive Those on list are those that have been caught. Predators are very good at getting away with their sick behavior, especially those that go after boys.

Eugene Loginov
Eugene Loginov

That would be an awesome idea. I mean it. They can even teach girls not to hate men and treat them better.

Eugene Loginov
Eugene Loginov

People see what they wanna see. They see violent gay and predators evrywhere.

WolfLeaderInNE
WolfLeaderInNE

Is there any update on the vote? I've tried to find information about it but to no avail

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

Justin, you cannot tell a child molester by a background check, that is silly. Especially with boys because they very rarely report the incidents to authorities. Way to much embarrassment involved.

Justin Hoag
Justin Hoag

I don't have a kid, but I doubt they will allow anyone that is of potential harm in. This could be solved with a background check of potential camp leaders, or would you be against this?

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

The Boyscouts have the freedom and right to run their private organization how they choose and it is up to them to make decisions that best protects the children they are responsible for? People need to stop worrying about protecting the grown ups and focus back on what is best for the children.

rodrigjose65
rodrigjose65

If this passes i will quit the scouts, withdrawn my sons n start a new scout organization, straights only, will have contest on naming it, stay tune!

Justin Hoag
Justin Hoag

In short, I still think it's a non-issue.

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

The point is the Boy scouts are playing with fire because they are putting being "politically correct" ahead of what is best for the safety of the children they are responsible to protect.

Justin Hoag
Justin Hoag

I understand your concern and the distinction made, but you are excluding a group of people under an assumption that they will molest children. It is a good distinction, but one that would not be conveyed once legislated. If legislated, it would basically ban all gays from participating in all boy scout activities. Which would make it a really backwards law. Do you understand?

adrian_alex93
adrian_alex93

Saying that we need two different organizations for gay and straight boyscouts is the exact same thing as the segregation blacks and whites had to go through back in the day. Let us learn from our mistakes and let the past not repeat itself or there will be consequences for us all.

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

No, I dont want men who are gay going on overnight "adventures" with my sons. Just like I dont want my daughter going on over night "adventures" with men.

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

The point is not that all gays rape boys, the point is a predator who happens to be gay wants opportunities to rape boys. Can you understand the difference? The case I posted was because Rebecca stated that gay men like men, not boys. My point is that not every gay man only likes men, here is a case were 2 gay men like rapping boys. That was to educate Rebecca that there are cases were gay men go after boys.

Justin Hoag
Justin Hoag

So you want someone on night watch to guard your kid while with the gay guy or girl....

Justin Hoag
Justin Hoag

Pointing out minority cases doesn't really make your assertion absolutely true.

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

The difference with a teacher, is they are not alone with my child over night

Justin Hoag
Justin Hoag

What do you think of Gay gym teachers? You are such an expert. lol

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

I am not generalizing, I Have made it clear that most gay men are not molesters but the ones that are will want to be boyscout leaders. That is the nature of a predator. why even invite the danger

Justin Hoag
Justin Hoag

My problem with you, Kristy, is that you are generalizing a people, and in effect marginalizing them, with suggesting things emphatically that make them sound like sexually obsessed monsters. My point of view is, if I had kids I wouldn't let them go on a weekend camping trip with a scout leader period. It doesn't matter their sexual orientation, I just wouldn't trust my kids with people I don't really know. If they were interested in camping I would take them camping. Gay people are like anyone else. You're looking stupid, misinformed, uncultured, and outrageous, stop while you can. Or at least stop ranting and respond intelligently with a little objectivity to the "other sides" point of view.

Niels Hoppe
Niels Hoppe

I always thought the boy scouts were super gay to begin with.

Brennan R. Pruett
Brennan R. Pruett

This same battle happened with trying to withdraw gay people from schools in the late 70's. Harvey Milk helped stopped that sentiment back then and we can get past it now. Enough generations past by to make the decision.

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

You see predators find ways to be alone with children. That is why you often catch molesters in roles that are set up to watch over children. Allowing gay Boyscout leaders creates a magnet for child predators. Why would you invite it?

Virgil Hicks
Virgil Hicks

If allowed there can never be " Scout's Honor ." They would have to say, " Scout's Perversion. "

Tyler Ryan Katz
Tyler Ryan Katz

^gay does not equal pedophile. Making false assumptions in order to block out certain people is ignorant and bigoted.

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

I know for a fact with my own eyes and my own life experience that there are plenty of gay men who like young boys. You are incredibly naive to think gay men would never go after boys. INSANE!! Of course, most will not that is obvious, but the ones that do want to go after little boys, where do you think they will go to find them?

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

Accidents happen, but I am not going to put my child intentionally and naively in a situation that can leave their soul scarred for the rest of their lives. That is a pain I have had to live with and I it wish on no one. Not even your ignorant a$$

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

Wow, you are so off it is sick. Most Molesters are white men is such a ignorant statement. You do understand that white people are 72% of the American population, right? So the numbers may seem high but the average according to the populations shows a whole different picture. I personally have met many men who were molested by men. About the same amount of men, as I have met of women. Not sure what planet you live on. There is a real danger and you are willing to put children at risk to push your politically correct bull crap.

Justin Hoag
Justin Hoag

And so the arguments begin between the egos. Wait one sec, while I get my popcorn.

Martin Spiegel
Martin Spiegel

Can't believe it's 2013 and we're still having this conversation.

Rebecca Phillips
Rebecca Phillips

I'm sorry you had such a traumatic childhood experience. While I can understand your need to protect your children from such a harrowing thing, you still need to understand that gay men like MEN, not boys. 'Gay' does not equal paedophile. I suppose your comment wasn't necessarily homophobic but misandric based on experience. I know it must be difficult to trust, but not everyone is terrible and out to get your children.

Kristy Rodriguez
Kristy Rodriguez

1 out of 3 girls is molested and who knows the real number for boys, they are less likely to tell. it is a very high priority on my list. And not high enough on others list. I wish it would have been a high priority on my mothers list. Society as a whole is in deep trouble because far to many do not protect their children.