Will Boys Scouts Get the Equality Badge?

Desiree Dylong


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The Boys Scouts of America (BSA) has been a part of the American tradition since the organization was founded in 1910. Generations have been impacted by this youth organization that is modeled to help build character. Currently, the BSA has been gaining media attention since it may remove its long standing ban on homosexual members.

An internal memorandum from 1991 on bsa-discrimination.org, which has the BSA’s position statement on homosexuality states, “We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirements in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts. Because of these beliefs, the Boy Scouts of America does not accept homosexuals as members or as leaders, whether in volunteer or professional capacities.”

On June 28, 2000, the Supreme Court case Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale protected the right to exclude members whose values went against the mission of the organization. Through this decision, the BSA was allowed to exclude homosexual members.

Now the BSA is considering dropping their policy against gay members. According to an article from NBCnews.com, a BSA official stated of the possible change in policy, “We’re a grassroots organization. This is a response to what’s happening at the local level.”

One individual who sparked this change in policy is Ohio native Jennifer Tyrell. Tyrell, who was her son’s Tiger Cub den leader, led her troop through acts of community service such as volunteering at soup kitchens and helping their community. She remained den leader, until April 2012, when she was notified that her position was being taken away because she was a lesbian.

Tyrell has since started an online petition and currently has more than 330,000 supporters.  An article posted on local Ohio News website, WTOV9.com, quoted Tyrell saying “I like to think that my petition kind of ignited a fire under people and so this kind of thing happens all the time but now people are more willing to stand up and say we’re not going to stand for it.”

It’s not just Tyrell who is fighting against the BSA policy; corporate companies have also shown their disapproval. An article on NBCnews.com states, “About 50 local United Way groups and several corporations and charities have concluded that the ban violates their non-discrimination requirements and have ceased providing financial aid to the Boy Scouts.”

Despite those advocating for change, many individuals are strictly against the idea of letting homosexual members participate. A user on debate.org argued that because the BSA is a private organization and was founded on Christian ideals, it would be inappropriate to impose a change in their position on homosexuality.

Since the BSA is such a long standing American organization, this issue remains controversial and divided depending on an individual’s values and beliefs. However, it’s hard to deny the impact that a character building organization like the scouts has on an individual. Adam Chelmecki, who achieved the highest rank in BSA as an Eagle Scout from Troop 49 in St. Charles, Illinois, said that his time with the scouts taught him leadership. Being an Eagle Scout also allowed him to help his community. When talking of the possible change in policy with the BSA, Chelmecki said that being more open towards all kinds of individuals would be a positive thing.

A decision on this policy change can be expected in the coming weeks. For now, all sides involved can only wait.