BSA Is Changing (I Hope), Which Is Laudable, but Only Because it Must.
Because of all of the good qualities of the Boy Scouts of America as an excellent youth development organization, I was a very active adult volunteer in BSA for many years.
Some of my volunteerism in Scouting, of which I am very proud by the way, is summarized on my website at http://karpmediation.com/vol.html .
At the same time, because of BSA’s detestable policy excluding gays in leadership positions (my opinion), I was a very vocal advocate for change from within.
17 years ago, I negotiated an amendment to the Charter Agreement of Temple Beth Hillel, the oldest Reform synagogue in the San Fernando Valley (metropolitan Los Angeles area), to enable it to sponsor a Cub Scout Pack and later a Boy Scout Troop.
Those units, inclusive without regard to sexual orientation from their inception, are still thriving 17 years later.
The amendment said this: “We select our leaders based upon values that we find important to our faith.”
This prescient sentence now encapsulates the imminent change in the BSA policy, which is to say that the national prohibition will go away and that sponsoring religious organizations will be able to choose for themselves whether or not to allow gay leadership in their scout units.
This is certainly an improvement, as it allows more liberal religious organizations the freedom to sponsor scout units and to choose adult leadership without regard to sexual orientation.
It also allows the status quo for conservative religious organizations.
This imminent change comes about, not because BSA has had an epiphany that it was wrong to exclude gays from leadership, but for more practical reasons.
Notwithstanding the decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), upholding BSA’s right to exclude gay leaders, BSA probably now realizes that Dale would not be so decided today, given the dramatic evolution in gay rights culminating most recently in the marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. S. __ (2015).
Even more recently, “the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that sexual orientation discrimination is already illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” See, http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/07/16/sexual_orientation_discrimination_at_work_eeoc_says_it_s_illegal_under_federal.html
This is probably equally problematic for BSA which undoubtedly prohibited avowed gay individuals from working for BSA at scout camps and the like.
In the face of the dramatic and fast-moving legal trend favoring LGBT rights (at last!), BSA probably now fully realizes the tremendous economic and social cost of defending its (indefensible) gay exclusionary policy in courts across the nation, in administrative hearings, in the media, and in its own councils and scout units.
That is the reason, I think, for the change.
Nevertheless, I applaud the BSA for taking the lead from its National President, Former Secretary Robert Gates who said at BSA’s National Annual Business Meeting in May 2015, “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.”
I welcome the change.
David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California and a retired volunteer in the Boy Scouts of America. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .