The summer before I turned 18, I stood atop 12,000+ foot Mount Baldy in northern New Mexico, surveying the forested land below from the barren peak. The air felt crisp and clean in my lungs, rejuvenating despite the soreness in my legs from the steep and somewhat treacherous ascent.
The extraordinary trip to the summit of Baldy highlighted a ten-day expedition through the southern Rocky Mountains. The more than 100-mile journey was the highlight of my scouting career, which ended in Dec. 2007 with my confirmation of the rank of Eagle Scout.
Throughout my dozen years in scouting, I canoed lakes in Virginia, camped countless nights under the stars and was nearly struck by lightning in the Black Hills of South Dakota (a story that with each retelling becomes a little more embellished).
The Boy Scouts of America taught me a lot about life: how to lead confidently, live ethically and work with others. Attaining the Eagle Scout award is an accomplishment I still list on my resume.
But if BSA bigwigs had their way, many qualified young men would never see that award or experience the amazing things BSA has to offer because of a decades old policy.
The ban on homosexual members and leaders is a dark, immovable stain on the fabric of an otherwise so beneficial organization. Last week, the BSA national executive board delayed a decision to lift the ban until May, when a 1,400 person council will decide the fate of the ban.
The reasoning behind the ban is rooted in lawsuits and fear-mongering — neither of which should be of chief concern to the BSA. If individual troops decided the eligibility based on sexual orientation, according to the board, the organization might be open to discrimination lawsuits. And? Seems like a universal ban lift would solve that dilemma.
Another factor cited by the board for years is the protection of innocent boys from potential predators.
What a dogmatic, narrow view of homosexual men. It’s a shame that BSA leaders ascribe to outdated stereotypes.
True, bad things have happened in the past. Sex scandals have plagued the BSA in recent years to the point where fear dictates decision making.
But the overarching categorization of gay men as predators typifies the waning relevance of the BSA national executive board’s policy in comparison to the national population.
Sounds a lot like gun legislation debates, right? Don’t limit the rights of others because of a few delinquents.
I just want to shake BSA head honchos and tell them that the current exclusion tactics are totally counterproductive to the mission of the boy scouts. How can you help boys manage the delicate transition into manhood by omitting some boys from the process?
Page 2 of 2 - Many of the young men struggling with their sexuality already feel isolated and excluded from society. An organization that unifies boys should be the first to welcome them.
To the executive board, I say this: the imposition of an arbitrary ban only serves to disassociate young men of any sexual orientation eager to improve their own lives.
I can only hope that despite whatever decision the national council makes in May, our local troops will continue to foster and welcome any young man with a desire to improve his life, because the virtues expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law aren’t exclusive to heterosexual men.
Every young man, regardless of any demographic (technically, non-Christians aren’t really allowed either, read the Declaration of Religious Principle), should have the opportunity to look down from the mountaintop and reflect on his journey like I did in 2007.
103 years of scouting exclusion is enough, or the BSA can expect to be excluded from the lives of many families.