By Barbara Frankel
Under pressure from corporate donors, the public and President Obama, the Boy Scouts of America today announced an end to its ban on gay members. But the policy would still not allow gay or lesbian scout leaders.
The Boy Scouts' board, which includes the CEOs of AT&T and Ernst & Young, must vote on the decision at its May meeting. And the timing of the announcement is curious as the news media is justifiably consumed with coverage of the Boston terrorist attacks, therefore minimizing coverage of the Boy Scouts' decision.
Don't Give Up the Fight
The decision is long overdue but is only a half-hearted measure. Pressure from companies such as E&Y, AT&T and Merck & Co. has been a major factor, and it is expected they will continue to push for inclusion of Scout leaders. All three companies have a 100 percent rating in the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index and have been visible in their support of LGBT rights.
Ernst & Young Chairman and CEO Jim Turley has been the most outspoken. "As I have done in leading Ernst & Young to being a most inclusive organization, I intend to continue to work from within the BSA board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress," he said last year.
President Obama also urged the Scouts to reconsider the ban. "My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life," he said in an interview.
Lack of Cultural Competence
In making its announcement, Boy Scouts spokesperson Deron Smith said the decision would be that "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference." The choice of language alone indicates the cultural disconnect of the Boy Scouts: The term "preference" is anathema to the LGBT community, since it indicates that being LGBT is a choice, which it is not. Even mainstream media organizations like the Associated Press and the New York Times no longer use the term "preference" in relation to orientation.
The Boy Scouts should follow the lead of companies like Ernst & Young, AT&T and Merck and create a culture that is inclusive of everyone. That must include its troop leaders. Without LGBT leaders, who can LGBT youth look to as role models?