IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Boy Scouts decision to bar LGBT individuals won't slow our fight

COMMENTARYThe Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday that it concluded a two-year review and would uphold its long-standing policy barring openly LGBT individu


Zach Wahls
by Zach Wahls

The Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday that it concluded a two-year review and would uphold its long-standing policy barring openly LGBT individuals from involvement in its organization, either as youth participants or adult leaders.

This decision follows a three-month campaign against that policy by various groups—including Scouts for Equality of which I am a co-founder—and individuals. More than 400 of us have already stood up and expressed our opposition to this policy and that number will only increase with time.

Despite the verdict, Scouts for Equality will continue to marshal grassroots support from Eagle Scouts and others. At the National Order of the Arrow Conference later this July, I'll be rallying fellow Eagles and other Boy Scouts and am optimistic about gathering even more support among BSA members.

Neither does the BSA decision detract from the fact that 66% of Americans under the age of 35 support same-sex marriage and 76% of Americans under the age of 35 support the legality of same-sex relationships.

What's been particularly disappointing to me is the secretive nature surrounding how this conclusion was reached. The very first value of the Scout Law is that a Scout is trustworthy. There is absolutely nothing trustworthy about unelected and unnamed committee members who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. Something here doesn't add up.

I've started a petition to end this secrecy. It requests that the BSA allows a resolution put forward just a month ago that would allow openly gay members to serve in the Scouts to come to a vote.

We need transparency. We need accountability. The more than 3 million individuals who make up the Scouts deserve more than the one-off musings of a subcommittee that has supposedly existed for more than two years but has not published a single report, nor any minutes, and as far as anyone can tell, possesses no official documentation.

Members deserve to see formal documentation describing who the members of this subcommittee are, how they reached their conclusion, what exactly that conclusion is, when it was reached and to whom they are accountable. Until that happens, color me highly skeptical about anything that this committee has or has not "decided."

Regardless of this announcement, I see progress. In two years, the president of the Boy Scouts of America's executive committee will be Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T and a man who has gone on the record opposing the BSA's policy of discrimination.

The fallout from the forced resignation of Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian Den Mother from Ohio, this spring captured attention around the country after GLADD rocketed her into the limelight. Two months later and I was delivering a petition to the BSA's annual leadership meeting with nearly 300,000 signatures asking to reinstate her. Days later, we discovered that the BSA was "carefully considering" a resolution that would end the policy of discrimination.

Today, Wednesday, July 18, Ms. Tyrrell and her family are delivering that petition to BSA headquarters in Dallas, Texas.

The process by which the BSA has chosen to address this issue for its 3-million-plus members is indicative of its own insecurity. If, in fact, the BSA was confident that its membership was overwhelmingly supportive, why not consult the various troops and councils that make up the organization? Why go through an unelected, anonymous committee comprised of members who are responsible to none but those who appointed them?

There are lots of questions to be answered here and very few answers.

Zach Wahls is a sixth-generation Iowan, author of My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family, Green Bay Packers fan and a commentator on LGBT and youth issues. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.