Group’s National Executive Board puts off decision about whether to lift gay ban until national council’s annual meeting in Grapevine in May
IRVING — The Boy Scouts’ decision this week to delay a decision on lifting its ban on gays launched more debate and raised doubts about whether the policy will be changed anytime soon.
The Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board, which had been expected to vote on the change this week, announced Wednesday that it was putting off the decision until the national council’s annual meeting in May.
LGBT advocates said the three months will give the community the opportunity to be more vocal about its opposition to the national gay ban.
“They can choose to continue to discriminate, but all that does is give them year after year of bad press and corporate donors who pull out,” said Jon Langbert, who was asked to step down as popcorn colonel of his son’s Dallas troop in 2010 because he’s gay. “Eventually they will change. …Hopefully they’ll make the right decision in May.”
Comparing the Boy Scouts policy change to the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” Langbert said there was strong opposition and threats that allowing openly gay members would destroy the U.S. military. Instead, it did no harm.
“It was a non-event,” he said. “It’s going to be the same thing with the Boy Scouts.”
He said the BSA’s leadership is split on the decision to be inclusive because of pressure from both LGBT advocates and anti-gay, religious extremists. He said the organization will have to decide whether to stand up against the pressure. In the meantime, he expects more corporate donors to pull their funding for the Scouts.
Langbert said the time until the May meeting will give advocates the opportunity to be heard through grassroots efforts. He said contacting local troop sponsors — of which many are schools with nondiscrimination polices — and informing them of the positive impact would be more beneficial than contacting the national Scouting office.
Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center Dallas, said she doesn’t believe this is the end of the issue and urged people working with the Scouts to redouble their efforts.
“The ban is a relic of discrimination and disinformation,” Cox said. “It should be on the ash heap of history.”
The National Executive Board announced Wednesday after three days of discussion at the DFW Airport Marriott that the national council will take action in May. The national council’s roughly 1,400 members will vote on a resolution during the meeting May 22 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine.
“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement.
The move to delay deliberations came after several troops threatened to leave the BSA and councils asked that they be able to have a say in the future of the organization.
But a national poll conducted by Quinnipiac University released Wednesday found that 55 percent of U.S. voters supported lifting the ban, compared to 33 percent who opposed it. The poll’s margin of error was plus/minus 2.3 percent.
Pat Currie, Scout executive at the Dallas-based Circle Ten Council, said the 1,400 national council members are comprised of the National Executive Board and representatives from every council in the nation. He said the number of representatives per council varies depending on the number of troops.
“I think it’s a good decision because it’ll allow us to get more feedback and more information from people who are concerned about the Scouts,” Currie said, adding that the BSA has gotten a lot of feedback on the issue. “To me, that just sort of reinforces the fact that people care about the Boy Scouts and are passionate about what we do for young people.”
Jennifer Tyrrell, the Ohio lesbian mom who was removed as den mother from her son’s Cub Scout troop in April, said the BSA has failed again and promised the fight for equality in the organization isn’t over.
“The Boy Scouts had the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents, but they’ve failed us yet again,” Tyrrell said. “Our fight will continue and we will continue to educate donors and supporters of the Boy Scouts about the effects of their anti-gay policy.”
Tyrrell was in Irving on Monday to help deliver four Change.org petitions to BSA headquarters that have garnered 1.4 million signatures in an effort to persuade the board to support the change. Two days later, as the decision was announced, anti-gay Texas Values held a “Save Our Scouts” prayer vigil at BSA headquarters.
The Human Rights Campaign has called for more action to sway the BSA toward an inclusive policy. HRC originally supported the proposed policy to allow local troops to decide whether to admit gay Scouts and leaders, but later called for a national nondiscrimination policy to protect gay members and leaders in every troop.
“Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delay action is another day that discrimination prevails,” President Chad Griffin said. “Now is the time for action. Young Americans, gay and straight, are hurt by the inaction associated with today’s news. The BSA leadership should end this awful policy once and for all, and open the proud tradition of Scouting to all.”
President Barack Obama voiced his support for including gays in Scouting. As sitting president, he is the honorary president of the Scouts. Calling scouting a “great institution,” Obama said in a pre-Super Bowl interview that the BSA should welcome gay members and leaders.
But Gov. Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout, spoke out against allowing gays to join. He said his views on homosexuality haven’t changed since he wrote a book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, and hoped the national position would remain the same.
Texas Values published a letter on its website this week signed by 37 Republican lawmakers across the state who support the ban and want the BSA “to stick with their decades of support for family values and moral principles.”
State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, a Girl Scout, later issued her own statement calling for full inclusion of gay members with a national nondiscrimination policy.
“Gay youth have been excluded by the Boy Scouts for too long,” Farrar wrote. “Socially ostracizing anyone is immoral; causing mental anguish to potentially emotionally vulnerable youth is unconscionable.”
The American Family Association responded to the delay by calling for the resignation of Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T and vice president of the Boy Scouts.
AFA said Stephenson would only continue to push to end the no-gays policy, especially since he is scheduled to be the board’s next chairman.
Stephenson and Ernst & Young Chairman and CEO James Turley, who both run companies with nondiscrimination polices, have been outspoken on the need to change the policy.
The Family Research Council praised the decision to keep the current policy for a few more months but wanted the Boy Scouts to reaffirm the policy like it did in July after saying a two-year study proved the gay ban was necessary.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 8, 2013.