by Sarah Kaminski
Scouting surrounded my life growing up. I was a Girl Scout, my mom was an assistant troop leader, my dad was a Scoutmaster, and my brother and dad are both Eagle Scouts. Throughout my childhood, countless lessons were learned about dedication, leadership, and friendships. The same can be said for my brother and friends that were involved in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
According to the BSA website, the organization “provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating in citizenship, and develops personal fitness.”
I never knew that fostering these qualities involved exclusion and discrimination. On July 17, BSA affirmed their policy excluding openly gay members and leaders. This announcement came after a two-year evaluation of the policy and years of public pressure to change the rule.
“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” said BSA’s chief scout executive Bob Mazzuca.
As someone who has seen so much good come from the BSA, this deeply saddens me. Who are they to say how someone’s gender identity is going to affect members of their organization? Their policy says to me that they think homosexuality is an illness that is spread to those around openly gay people.
What’s next? No openly gay educators, doctors, reporters or politicians?
Children are going to be surrounded by gay people in other areas of their life, so barring participation in BSA is just asinine. I hope that one day this organization sees the harm in their actions. The BSA are attempting to foster young boys into men, and right now I do not see how they can “build character” or “citizenship” while promoting exclusion and segregation.
The following is a statement from one of my best friends who earned his Eagle rank in 2005 from Indian Nations Council in Oklahoma:
It makes me sad to think that if I were to want to be involved in a scouting troop, I wouldn’t be able. Not because I lack relevant skills or because my values are contrary to the organization’s, but because of who I am. Family life is a central tenant of scouting; every scout perusing the Eagle rank must complete a merit badge by that name. BSA includes and promotes scouts and scouting for young men from all kinds of family backgrounds.
The only exception is the gay community. When I was awarded my eagle rank, my father gave me my grandfather’s Eagle badge. I hope that if I have a son, the BSA will have changed by then so that I can pass his great grandfather’s badge on to him.