Home > B1, Learning, Mr. O. Recommends > Time for Boy Scouts to Reconsider Ban on Gays

Time for Boy Scouts to Reconsider Ban on Gays


Source: NY Times

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is an Irving-based private organization that was founded over a hundred years ago. While the organization has been praised for its focus on training youth to be responsible and self-sufficient Americans, it has also endured scrutiny for its strict membership policies. The BSA has recently been under fire for its ban on gay troop leaders and members, a policy that in today’s world seems relatively outdated. The proposal to drop the ban would not require every troop to welcome gay members and leaders, but simply allow troop leaders to “determine how to address this issue” according to group officials. (Dallas Morning News) Furthermore, the BSA’s official policy does not inquire about the sexual orientation of its members or leaders but prohibits the participation of openly gay individuals. With Barack Obama being the first president to publicly support gay marriage, the BSA’s received more pressure than ever to reverse their policy.

In our post civil rights era world, the BSA’s exclusion of gays seems, in my opinion, obsolete. In a society where the president has voiced support for same sex marriage, it is almost inevitable that people will take action against a policy as discriminatory as this one. While people have the right to voice their opposition to the BSA’s ban on gays, the fact of the matter remains: the BSA is a private organization and therefore has the right to form its own regulations. The case of Boy Scouts of America v. Dale established the BSA’s constitutional right to exclude an individual, in this case homosexuals, when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” In the BSA’s case, it declares that homosexuality conflicts with the organization’s ideals. This claim is protected by freedom of association, which is outlined in the First Amendment, and allows for private organizations such as the BSA to choose who they allow to become members.

Grassroots mobilization has played a significant part in civil rights activism and this situation seems no different. The pressure being put on the BSA to change their policy is coming in large part from individuals who have been rejected by the organization, including Ryan Anderson, who was stripped of his Eagle Scout title for being openly gay. (Forbes) Another former boy scout named Eddie Kurtz has started a petition “urging California lawmakers to pass SB 323, which would end tax breaks for youth groups which discriminate against members based on their sexual orientation.” (Huffington Post) If passed, this bill would serve as a precedent and an example of the power legislators have over private organizations. By threatening to remove the BSA’s tax exemption, the California government has placed further pressure on the organization to reconsider its policy on gay members.


Source: LA Times

I think that what I have learned about the constitution in class has allowed for me to see this situation in a broader light. Without an understanding of the constitution, I think it would be easy to assert that the BSA’s policy should be illegal. Although I think the exclusion of gays is unjust, I realize that as a private organization the BSA has the right to establish its own policies based on the ideals of the group. On the other hand, a look at the big picture seems to suggest that the BSA should reconsider its policy. With more and more states passing legislation to allow same sex marriage, the nation seems to be moving away from more conservative thinking about homosexuality. Apart from the nation as a whole, two troops in Minnesota have already rejected the policy banning gay individuals according to the Dallas Morning News. While the BSA has the constitutional right to uphold whichever policies it sees fit, I think that the organization should give in to some of the pressure it is being placed under and reevaluate its stance on openly gay members and troop leaders.

Categories: B1, Learning, Mr. O. Recommends
  1. govmeaganf
    February 25, 2013 at 6:44 am

    Maya, this is a really well-written and thought out article. However, you could consider citing maybe one more source.

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