Scouts’ anti-gay policy immoral

Bob Fulkerson is state director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Recently, the CEO of a major Nevada corporation asked all adult Eagle Scouts to get involved with Scouting. I went from Bobcat to Eagle Scout in six years, earned 27 merit badges and worked as Conservation Director and Camp Commissioner at Camp Fleischmann. Thanks to Scouting, I developed leadership skills and a love of the outdoors.

I would love to help out the Boy Scouts of America, but they don’t want me. Just as private clubs can exclude blacks or Jews from its ranks, the Boy Scouts exclude me because I’m gay.

The head of the Nevada Area Council told me the Scouts’ anti-gay policies are “a non-issue for the people we serve.” Really? I’ve talked to dozens of scouts, volunteers and leaders who are anguished about the Scouts’ policy of discrimination. They know that being morally straight means acting with integrity and has nothing to do with sexual orientation. The Scouts’ bigoted policy hurts the organization by casting it with the Jim Crow bigotry of the past.

Any good American would quit an organization that excludes African Americans or Jews. And, as long as Scouting continues to reject gays, people should withdraw support from the organization. The Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Scouts to discriminate provides no cover. Discrimination is wrong.

Those who give money to the Boy Scouts or remain in Scouting and seek to change it from the inside are having zero impact, and frankly, they are on shaky moral ground. To stay now is to acquiesce. It’s like lamenting segregated facilities in the 1950s, and then going to eat every day at a “whites only” lunch counter.

The Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy gives specious truth to the lie that gays are predators. That we are evil. That we have no right to be around children. That silent and inhumane message is heard and internalized by male adolescents. For those who are just coming to terms with their gay sexuality, the harm can be deadly. Indeed, Nevada ranks highest in the nation in adolescent suicide, and it is estimated that up to a third of young people who take their own lives are gay and lesbian teens.

No evidence exists to support the Scouts’ assertion that gay men are predators. The vast majority of child molesters are heterosexual. Ironically, if Scouting’s founder Lord Baden-Powell showed up at the Scout office today, he would be banned from volunteering. It is one of Scouting’s most repressed secrets that the founder was himself homosexual.

Our local United Way should view the Boy Scouts’ discrimination policy as incompatible with United Way’s inclusive vision for equality of services, and it should stop funding the Scouts. There are dozens of other youth groups such as the Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs of America who don’t have policies of intolerance against gays.

The Scouts’ anti-gay policy fosters a climate of hatred that leads to acts of verbal and physical violence against gays. It runs counter to the principles of equality and freedom our country and the Boy Scouts of America were founded upon.