The Boy Scouts of America may finally be lifting its ban on enrolling gay troop leaders. Robert Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and a former secretary of Defense, has called for a discussion on this topic and intends to have a decision by October.
Wait, October? This issue has been going on for several years now, and dragging it out another five months is not only delaying the inevitable, but it's humiliating the BSA's image.
We need to reach out to our sponsoring institutions and talk with them about the potential change. We need to talk with donors and others so there’s a process to be gone through here, but I think that it’s inevitable that we have to change the policy and that’s what I recommended, and we’ll see as I say not later than October if the rest of the movement is in agreement with the position.
Gates reveals a significant shift in opinion on homosexuality's place within BSA. In 1991, the organization was quite direct in its views:
We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement 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.
According to this, 24 years ago, the organization considered all gays immoral, dirty and unfit to be role models. Scouts who did come out of the closet during this period were kicked out, regardless of how far they were into the program.
For some, that could mean 10 years of hard work and dedication gone.
Unfortunately for me, I was a Boy Scout when this discriminatory policy was still in place.
During my years as a Scout, I risked the chance of being humiliated and thrown out of my troop if I decided to disclose my sexuality.
As a result, I spent my teenage years hiding a part of who I really was, a part of me I so badly wanted to acknowledge openly.
In fear of being expelled from my troop, I kept my mouth shut and carefully avoided any conversations that would come up about girls or sex, which was just about every conversation boys were having at that age.
It wasn't until I earned my Eagle Scout rank just shy of my 18th birthday when I could finally let out the sigh of relief I had been holding back for seven years.
My experience is just one of many others of closeted Scouts who endured similar pain and prejudice on their trail to Eagle.
It wasn't until January 2014 the BSA decided to lift its policy prohibiting any "known or avowed homosexuals." Although this change allowed Scouts to be openly gay, it still banned gay adults from taking on any leadership positions within the Scout troop.
This leads us to where we are now, and the BSA knows it's time to sink or swim if it plans to stick around as a relevant youth organization.
I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.
Clearly, he is more concerned about the survival of the BSA than the dignity of its leaders.
We are at an interesting tipping point regarding American attitude towards LGBT rights. Now that the majority of the nation is in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, and with a pending Supreme Court case that will settle the marriage debate by the end of this summer, organizations are beginning to follow suit in the movement toward LGBT acceptance.
However, they are not always doing so by desire, but instead out of obligation. USA Today reports that BSA membership is down from 2.8 million Scouts in 2012 to 2.4 million last year.
Gates realizes the BSA is under enormous cultural and political pressure to lift its ban, so he faces dwindling leeway in maintaining the discriminatory policy.
I look back and realize the prestige of being an Eagle Scout didn't outweigh the years I sacrificed pretending to be someone I was not.
My hope for Scouting is that it becomes a community where all boys and young men are trained to learn the true essence of leadership: inclusivity.
We'll see how things pan out in October. Hopefully, the BSA will do more than just lift the ban and show some further acceptance and support of its trustworthy, loyal LGBT leaders.