Boy Scouts' Anti-Gay Ban Upheld: How Are Advocates for Diversity and Inclusion Responding?

Why did the Boy Scouts uphold its anti-gay membership policy? Why didn't inclusion advice from CEOs of Ernst & Young and AT&T matter?

Despite public support for diversity and inclusion by Boy Scouts of America board members and CEOs Jim Turley (Ernst & Young) and Randall Stephenson (AT&T), Boy Scouts of America has confirmed that it will uphold its controversial ban prohibiting membership to openly gay scouts and troop leaders.


The policy is described as akin to "don't ask, don't tell": Boy Scouts of America "does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members" but will not grant membership to "out" individuals or those engaging in same-sex behavior, according to spokesperson Deron Smith.

The Boy Scouts' announcement is the result of an 11-member committee that met throughout a private two-year review. The committee cited "parental support" as the key factor in the resolution. There will be no further action or reconsideration on its membership policy.

Turley and Stephenson did not offer comment directly to news sources. A statement from AT&T, however, reinforces the company's commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion and its belief "that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable." Stephenson is in line to become the Boy Scouts' national executive board president in 2014.

Turley is global chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young (No. 6 on The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list and No. 4 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees), and Stephenson is chairman, CEO and president of AT&T (No. 4 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 and No. 8 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees). Both companies have gained recognition as diversity leaders and received a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, which designates excellence in LGBT-friendly workplaces.

Turley in particular has been a leader for diversity and inclusion and has spoken at several DiversityInc events about the importance of diversity management. He was the first board member and corporate leader to publically oppose the Boy Scouts' ban.

In June, Turley said, "I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning and service; however, the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse. 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."

Stephenson, while not voicing direct opposition, also stressed the importance of diversity and inclusion, saying it's "part of AT&T's culture and operations … We don't agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything."

Public Reaction to Gay Bias

Public leaders and LGBT advocates are voicing their disappointment in the Boys Scouts' announcement.

On the Human Rights Campaign blog, Chad Griffin, president, said: "This is a missed opportunity of colossal proportions. With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued. These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they've chosen to teach division and intolerance."

"It's disappointing … this process does not sound trustworthy. We don't know who the people are—they are not named and they are not willing to accept responsibility for their actions," Iowa-based Eagle Scout Zach Wales, the son of lesbian parents and a public advocate for more LGBT-friendly Boy Scouts policies, told ABC News. He also noted that a more democratic decision should take place, as "the vast majority of Scout families do not support their policy on excluding gays."

For more on LGBT issues, read:

LGBT Pride Facts & Figures for Diversity Leadership 

Ask DiversityInc: How Can Corporations Support Same-Sex Marriage?

Safe LGBT Spaces: What Schools Can Learn From Resource Groups

 

 

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