Boy Scouts, be prepared: Gays are out there.
The Boy Scouts of America have enforced policies since 1991 that exclude gays from the organization, and the rules have been reviewed multiple times. An 11-member committee recently did a two-year review, concluding that the current practice "is absolutely the best policy" for the century-old institution, according to its spokesman.
The committee unanimously decided the policy should be upheld, but the panel's members and how they made this decision are secrets. The Boy Scouts explain that parental opinion was a key factor in continuing the ban, along with the "morally straight" portion of the Scout oath.
As a private organization, the Boy Scouts of America is welcome to set its own membership policies. However, that doesn't mean they're in the best interests of the majority of those involved.
The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are both storied American institutions that many children are involved with at some point. While the Girl Scouts have been clear that sexual orientation is not a factor to be a member or leader, the Boy Scouts forbid openly gay leaders and members.
The most common fears associated with making a gay man responsible for children are that he is after boys sexually or that he will persuade boys to follow his orientation. But gay is not a synonym for pedophile, nor is it a choice one can be lured into.
Jennifer Tyrrell of Ohio was asked to be a leader of her son's Cub Scout den. Her Cub Scouts did the same activities as all the others -- volunteering around the community, collecting canned goods, working on those knot skills -- yet she was removed from the position after nearly a year because she is a lesbian. Seeking reinstatement, she presented a petition with more than 315,000 signatures yesterday to the Boy Scouts national office in Texas.
Boy Scout policies send two horrible messages to members: It's OK to discriminate against gays, and it's not OK to have that orientation.
The Boy Scouts is a strong organization that aims to help boys mature and become leaders, but it should not be instilling the lie that hate and intolerance are acceptable.