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Attitudes are changing to allow homosexual Scoutmasters

As reported in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution on May 25, 2014, Robert Gates, the new president of the Boy Scouts of America (Scouts) would have supported allowing gay adults to be leaders in the various scouting organizations, if he were president of the Scouts at the time. The tagline for the piece was “I would’ve supported” gay scout leaders. Gates was Secretary of Defense when he opened the US military to homosexual soldiers, and members of the CIA.

Robert Gates receives Liberty award in 2011
Robert Gates receives Liberty award in 2011Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Let me address the membership issue ... In all candor, I would have supported going further, as I did in opening the way for gays to serve in the CIA and in the military.

This is not going to change the decision that was made before Gates became president of the Scouts, at least not yet. Gates said that he will "oppose any effort to reopen this issue" while he is president. That thinking may change with growing acceptance of gays in the Scouts, and financial pressures from major sponsors that do not want their corporate identities tied to a controversy over gay Scoutmasters.

One of Gates’ challenges will be to restore outside funding for corporations and major church groups. Disney and Lockheed-Martin withdrew sponsorship over the banning of gay youths from the Scouts, as did UPS, Intel, Merck and United Way.

Public opinion regarding the Boy Scouts handling of gay membership is lower than that for the Girl Scouts. The Girl Scouts have had a more accepting policy towards lesbian membership.

Girl Scouts of the USA and its local councils and troops value diversity and inclusiveness and do not discriminate or recruit on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, national origin, or physical or developmental disability.

Prior to the reversal of the policy decision on gay membership in 2013, the Boy Scout’s official policy was to ban gay boys from membership, and gay adults from leadership positions.

While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.

The banning of homosexual adults still applies for the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. The most recent controversy occurred in Seattle, WA when Troop 98’s sponsor, The Rainier United Methodist Church, was ordered to fire openly gay Geoff McGrath as the Scoutmaster. The church refused to fire McGrath, and the Boy Scouts revoked the troop’s charter in April, 2014.

The California Catholic Daily provided some details of the financial impact of the gay leadership issue in an article Boy Scouts pressured to allow homosexual leaders on May 14, 2014.

A majority of Fortune 500 companies, however, support a change in the current leadership policy, as do a majority of current and former corporations that currently have or had sponsorship-type relationships with the BSA.

This article also documented research done on the interaction of homosexual males with youth. This has been a key perceptional issue regarding homosexual Scoutmasters. The fear that homosexual Scoutmasters will commit homosexual acts or influence members of their troops to become homosexuals is unfounded.

To assess the safety and liability factors surrounding a policy change for Scoutmasters, the BSA consulted with four leading psychological or psychiatric practitioners in the field of youth protection and child sexual-abuse prevention. These experts concluded that the research surrounding children’s association with self-identified homosexual adults indicates that “there appear to be no effects on children’s adjustment, mental health, or sexual orientation.

You can read more about Gates’ challenges with regard to gay Scoutmasters in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution article.

Allowing openly homosexual males to become Scoutmasters is gaining traction because of financial pressures from corporate sponsors of Scouting, and moral pressures from progressive churches. The Catholic Church and fundamentalist sects of Christianity remain as major barriers. Spiritualist churches are traditionally more inclusive regarding homosexual issues largely because their ties to biblical prohibitions on sexuality are not as rigid as those of fundamentalists.

The attitudes are changing for a majority of the population, and the ending of restrictions on gay Scoutmasters is another step in equality without regard to sexual orientation.