The Girl Scouts of America and the Boy Scouts of America both made headlines this week as they stride toward embracing LGBT equality.
First, in a progressive policy change, the Girl Scouts of America will now grant membership to transgender children.
The GSUSA’s frequently asked questions section on its website has been updated to answer the question “What is Girl Scouts’ position on serving transgender youth”:
Girl Scouts is proud to be the premiere leadership organization for girls in the country. Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority. That said, if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.
This is not the first time the GSUSA has tackled this issue. In 2012, a Colorado GSUSA troop granted membership to a 7-year-old transgender child.
The GSUSA, which currently has 2.8 million members, has served as a way for girls to develop leadership skills and friendships since its founding in 1912. In February, the GSUSA was recognized by Fast Company as one of the top 10 most innovative companies in the world. According to Robert Safian, editor at Fast Company, “The transformational work Girl Scouts is doing on behalf of girls everywhere is both exciting and inspiring Affecting future female generations to become women of courage, confidence, and character is no small feat.”
The organization has also been a leader in diversity since its inception:
At a time of segregation and before laws promoting civil rights were passed, our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, ensured that African-American, American Indian and Hispanic girls were able to become Girl Scouts. She led efforts to make Girl Scouting available to girls who lived in rural and urban areas, to girls who were rich, middle class and poor, and to girls who were born in this country as well as immigrants.
Many other diverse companies serve as investors for the GSUSA, including AT&T (No. 7 on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity), Dell (No. 31), and Toyota Financial Services (Toyota Motor North America is No. 36).
Naturally, the GSUSA’s inclusive decision has sparked controversy among some groups, particularly the American Family Association (AFA) and Concerned Women for America (CWFA).
The AFA’s website dedicates a page to answering the question “Is AFA a Hate Group” And despite the group’s insistence that it is not, the points listed say otherwise.
The AFA is also severely misinformed on the majority opinion in America. Last September, the group released an “action alert” after Target (No. 25) defended gay marriage, calling Target “out of step with the majority of Americans.” However, according to Pew Research, more Americans now than ever support same-sex marriage.
A post on the CWFA’s website compares gay marriage to incest: “Adults involved in incest have sex too; should government call it marriage and license them”
Despite the assertions that the GSUSA has insulted Christian parents, the GSUSA’s website shows the opposite. In response to the question, “Does Girl Scouting support families of faith” the organization says it “supports girls from all backgrounds and beliefs.”
Meanwhile, The Boy Scouts of America are moving in a similar direction. BSA President Robert Gates announced at the national annual business meeting that he wants the organization to reconsider its current ban prohibiting gay men from being leaders or volunteers.
The remarks came as a surprise because Gates had previously stated he would not examine this issue during his presidency. Although the organization lifted its ban preventing gay scouts from joining several years ago, it remained adamant in its ban on gay leaders. This prompted big corporations to urge the group to end the ban, including AT&T and EY (No. 4). Merck & Co. (No. 16) even withdrew their funding for the organization.
However, Gates explained that now sees the rest of the country moving forward and does not want the BSA to remain behind:
events during the past year have confronted us with urgent challenges I did not foresee and which we cannot ignore Nor can we ignore the social, political and juridical changes taking place in the country changes taking place at a pace over this year no one anticipated. I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage.
Like the GSUSA, the BSA holds far more importance than any hate group that will likely attack this announcement. Founded in 1910, the group has over 2.6 million members and more than one million volunteers. Members of the BSA become strong leaders and positive members of their communities, as well as presidents and astronauts. In 2013, the BSA achieved a collective total of 17 million service hours. To date, over 6.5 million First Aid Merit Badges have been awarded to scouts, as well as more than 3.1 million Citizenship in the Community badges.
The organization also puts great emphasis on ethnic as well as generational diversity and seeks ways to appeal to people who represent all ethnicities and generations.