Someday — maybe sooner, maybe later — the Boy Scouts of America will open its membership ranks to include gay men. It will be a great day for both groups.
Those new members will benefit from the discipline, skills and values that the Scouts have instilled in generations of young men. And the Scouts will benefit from the enthusiasm and participation of those who have been so long denied access — as well as the renewed engagement and support of many old members who have left the organization because of its anti-gay rules.
If you visit the site EagleBadges.Tumblr.com, for example, you’ll discover those rules have helped hollow the organization from inside. The site features letter after letter from former Scouts who have returned their Eagle badge — Scouting’s highest honor — to protest the organization’s membership policy.
“Perhaps, paradoxically, I wouldn’t feel the responsibility to take this action without the influence of the Scouts,” wrote one former Eagle Scout, Nathaniel P. May of West Virginia. “Scouts taught me a sense of citizenship — of acting on principle simply because people who do so govern themselves.
“The world I live in is crowded and diverse,” May added. “If I’m going to be a citizen, my actions in the world will somehow respect both its crowdedness and its diversity. An attempt to live in a comfortable, homogeneous world is a rejection of the duty of citizenship. It is with great pain that I acknowledge that the Boy Scouts of America has neglected this duty.”
Eloquent words. And they demonstrate something important: The Scouts wouldn’t change rules merely because of outside pressure, but because of the desires of so many people inside the organization.
The Boy Scouts would be good for its gay members. Gay members would be good for the scouts. Let’s hope that “someday” is someday soon.
Joel Mathis is a writer in Philadelphia.