The Boy Scouts

Will the Boy Scouts of America mature into a tolerant and inclusive group?

UPDATE: On February 6, 2013, the Boys Scouts released the following statement: “After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of American’s Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberative review of its membership policy.”

When I was kid, there was nothing I looked more forward to than “sleep-away” camp. What could be better than staying up late with friends playing “truth or dare,” eating six pancakes for breakfast because your parents aren’t there to tell you otherwise, playing endless games of Marco Polo, making friendship bracelets, getting a piggyback ride from your favorite counselor, and closing each day with singing the same cheesy songs by the campfire.

The laid-back camp environment helped me to feel less constrained than I did at school, although I loved school, and served to alleviate the omnipresent anxiety I felt as an adolescent; which I suspect stemmed from my sense that I was somehow “different” than my friends. At camp, I was encouraged to be as goofy, as creative, as dramatic, or as adventurous as I wanted to be. Accordingly, I practiced, perhaps for the first time, being my pure, unadulterated self,which was incredibly liberating.

Thus, years later in 2000, when I read that the United States Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts’ revocation of an adult Scoutmaster’s membership because he was gay in the case, Boys Scouts of America v. Dale, I could not help but grieve for all the gay boy scouts or boy scouts questioning their sexuality who would be impacted by this message of intolerance.

Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 2.5 million boy scouts (youth) andmore than 1 million boy scouts (adult).

Very generally, the United States Supreme Court held the forced inclusion of a gay Scoutmaster ran afoul of the Boys Scouts’ First Amendment Right of Expressive Association and its official position that homosexuality is immoral behavior.

Although the Boy Scouts’ experience does not always take the exact form of summer camp (though Boy Scouts do offer some sleep-away camp options), the Boy Scouts’ experience provides for interaction among adolescents outside of school in a more relaxed environment akin to the camp experience.

However, unlike my childhood camp experiences, gay boy scouts or boy scouts questioning their sexuality may not enjoy the same freedom of being their pure, unadulterated selves in a more relaxed environment, but rather, they may have to deny who they are or even practice being someone they are not.

Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 2.5 million boy scouts (youth) and more than 1 million boy scouts (adult). Thus, the United Supreme Court’s decision has impacted thousands if not millions of gay youth or gay youth questioning their sexuality over the years, not to mention the millions of heterosexual boy scouts and boy scouts’ parents who have effectively beentold that having a gay friend or a gay son is unacceptable.

Now, thirteen years later, the Boys Scouts’ stance on homosexuality appears to be evolving. Indeed, very recently, on January 28, 2013, the Boy Scouts released the following statement: “Currently the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation…” I welcome such a discussion and yearn for the day when the only consideration a child has when he or she attends camp or joins a club is simply how much fun he or she is going to have.

Girl Scouts’ Stance on Homosexuality

  • The Girl Scouts’ policy with regard to the sexual orientation of its members, volunteers and staff states, “There are no membership policies on sexual preference.”
  • The Girl Scouts is an active member of several organizations that support LGBT rights.
  • Former Director of Administration for the Girl Scouts, Lynn Cothren, was open about being gay without incident.
  • In 2007, Girl Scout CEO, Kathy Cloninger stated, “I feel like we/[the Girl Scouts] cannot be the nation’s expert on girl issues without dealing with how issues of sexuality affect the girls of this nation.”
  • In 2011, Houston’s openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, was the Girl Scouts’ convention speaker.
Tiff Waskowicz is a Civil Rights Attorney. A large percentage of her practice is representing individuals in employment discrimination, retaliation, sexual discrimination, whistleblower, Family and Medical Leave Act, and sexual harassment cases. Tiff received her J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2006 and a B.A. from Amherst College in 2000, where she emphasized her study in creative/persuasive writing. Tiff is a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and, in her spare time, she enjoys cross word puzzles, reading, and jogging.