A bittersweet advancement in the Boy Scouts of America policy swept across America in May.
On one hand, the 103-year-old organization would now accept openly gay youth members, but its ban on openly gay Scout leaders remained in place.
After heated debate, a February resolution to allow gay youth and Scout leaders was placed on hold until the 1,400 members of the BSA’s National Council could consider the policy change in May at its annual meeting in Grapevine. But by then, the resolution only opened the organization to gay youth who’d be forced to leave BSA ranks at 18.
The debate on whether to overturn the 22-year ban caused friction that divided the religious and Scouting communities. Since the change, many churches in Texas and across the country have stopped sponsoring troops and alternative Scouting organizations have taken shape.
The Boy Scouts ban on gay Scouts and leaders began in 1991 when the organization determined open homosexuals went against the part of the Scout oath that mandates members be “morality straight.”
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 2000 case when justices ruled that the private organization could choose its membership.
The historic vote came more than a year after Ohio den mother Jennifer Tyrrell was removed from her position for being gay. Her removal created a national outrage and launched a national campaign with GLAAD to end the ban. She later sparked a local response when she met with BSA leaders at its Irving headquarters and dropped off her petition that 300,000 people had signed to reinstate her as den mother in July last year.
The successful vote was one of many reasons Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality, was awarded the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award at Black Tie Dinner in November. At 22, he is the youngest person to receive the honor.
But the work isn’t over. Advocates hope to get the ban on openly gay Scout leaders overturned next year.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 27, 2013.