On Friday, the national delegation for the Boy Scouts of America approved a resolution to lift the ban on gay scouts with 60 percent of the vote. While openly gay youth are now allowed to participate in the organization, the ban on gay leaders has not been lifted.
In April, the BSA announced it would consider taking up the proposal to lift the ban on gay youth members, but keep the ban on adult leaders in what can only be interpreted as the organization’s attempt to find middle ground on the hotly debated issue. For many on both sides of the debate, however, this was not really compromise.
Advocates of opening the BSA’s membership policy to include openly gay members conclude that the proposal is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t really solve the issue at large. Essentially, the proposal extends membership to openly gay scouts, but it tells these scouts that their acceptance has its limits.
Adolescence is a difficult and awkward time for most teens. Yet, the experience becomes less of a burden when teenagers have peers to bond with. This is much easier for heterosexual teens in a tight-knit group like a Boy Scouts troop.
However, even with the policy changes, it is likely many gay scouts will remain reluctant to come out openly about their sexuality. It is an uncomfortable and scary thing for these youths even as society becomes more accepting of the LGBT community. And, since the issue has raised so much controversy, youth scouts who are gay may be even more reluctant to be open about it.
By the time many of these scouts are in a position where they are more comfortable with being open about their sexuality, they will likely be in the last years of the youth program. Under the new system, these scouts are told they will no longer be allowed to participate in the scouting community just as they reach a point when they would likely feel more secure in their own identity.
Ultimately, the BSA is a private organization and thereby has the right to establish its own membership requirements. Some people may not agree with its policies, but the BSA cannot be forced to change them.
The BSA voted as a private, nonprofit organization to change its membership policies. This is a defining point for the organization as it must look to its own future and adapt to societal evolution in order to survive.