Despite protests, Boy Scouts reaffirm ban on gays

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 | 5:25 p.m. CDT; updated 11:02 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NEW YORK — After a confidential two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday emphatically reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays, angering critics who hoped that relentless protest campaigns might lead to change.

The Scouts cited support from parents as a key reason for keeping the policy and expressed hope that the prolonged debate over it might now subside. Bitter reactions from gay-rights activists suggested that result was unlikely.

The Scouts' national spokesman, Deron Smith, told The Associated Press that an 11-member special committee, formed discreetly by top Scout leaders in 2010, came to the conclusion that the exclusion policy "is absolutely the best policy" for the 112-year-old organization.

Smith said the committee, comprised of professional scout executives and adult volunteers, was unanimous in its conclusion — preserving a long-standing policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 and has remained controversial ever since.

As a result of the committee's decision, the Scouts' national executive board will take no further action on a resolution submitted at its recent national conference asking for reconsideration of the membership policy.

The Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, contended that most Scout families support the policy, which applies to both adult leaders and Scouts.

"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Mazzuca said. "We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."

The president of the largest U.S. gay-rights group, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, depicted the Scouts' decision as "a missed opportunity of colossal proportions."

"With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued," he said. "They've chosen to teach division and intolerance."

Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the Scouts "have turned their backs on a chance to demonstrate fairness, exercise sound judgment and serve as a role model for valuing others."

The Scouts did not identify the members of the special committee that studied the issue, but said in a statement that they represented "a diversity of perspectives and opinions."

"The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations — both from within Scouting and from outside of the organization," the statement said.

The announcement suggests that hurdles may be high for a couple of members of the national executive board — Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson — who have recently indicated they would try to work from within to change the membership policy. Both of their companies have been commended by gay-rights groups for gay-friendly employment policies.

Stephenson is on track to become president of the Scouts' national board in 2014, and will likely face continued pressure from gay-rights groups to try to end the exclusion policy. Asked for comment on Tuesday about the Scouts' decision to keep the policy, AT&T did not refer to Stephenson's situation specifically.

"We don't agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything," the company said. "Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable."

A statement from the executive committee of the Scouts' national executive board alluded to the Turley-Stephenson developments.

"Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting," the statement said. "While not all board members may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization."

Since 2000, the Boy Scouts have been targeted with numerous protest campaigns and run afoul of some local nondiscrimination laws because of the membership policy.

One ongoing protest campaign involves Jennifer Tyrrell, the Ohio mother of a 7-year-old Cub Scout who was ousted as a den mother because she is lesbian., an online forum supporting activist causes, says more than 300,000 people have signed its petition urging the Scouts to reinstate Tyrrell and abandon the exclusion policy. The petition is to be delivered to the Scouts' national headquarters in Irving, Texas, on Wednesday.

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, an Iowa college student who was raised by lesbian mothers, said Tuesday's announcement didn't change his view that eventually the Scouts would relent under pressure from campaigns such as those that he and his allies have mounted.

"I'm sure they'll keep saying this until the day they decide to change the policy," said Wahls.

He contended that the committee review process should not have been kept secret. "The very first value of the Scout Law is that a Scout is trustworthy," Wahls said. "There is absolutely nothing trustworthy about unelected and unnamed committee members who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions."

The Boy Scouts' policy stands in contrast to inclusive membership policies adopted by several other major youth organizations, including the Girl Scouts of the USA and Camp Fire.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Ray Shapiro July 18, 2012 | 1:29 p.m.

("Despite protests, Boy Scouts reaffirm ban on gays")
Despite my protests, I decided to leave the Boy Scouts when on a camping trip the scoutmaster wouldn't allow my girlfriend to sleep with me in my tent.
And now organizations like the North American Man/Boy Love Association want to change the Boy Scouts to change their policy of excluding homosexuality from their charter.
What is wrong with these gay groups?
The Boy Scouts are responsible for what happens to these children and as such have the right to exclude any person(s) they wish to weed out from their midst.
The desire to alter the fabric of the Boy Scouts is indicative of their overall desires.
("As a result, predatory homosexuals with views on sex like those of the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), predatory liberals epitomized by the ACLU – --- which represents and defends NAMBLA while attacking the BSA, and predatory lawyers posturing public interest purity while raking in fees at the expense of BSA and taxpayers, combine to damage if not destroy the BSA through lawsuits which place the BSA between the proverbial rock and a hard place.")

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 18, 2012 | 1:50 p.m.

One of the first things the Nazis did upon assuming power was disband the German equivalent of Boy Scouts. That should tell us something.

(Report Comment)
frank christian July 18, 2012 | 3:05 p.m.

And USSR communists brainwashed Catholic Cardinal, József Mindszenty and put him on public "trial". He confessed to planning the theft of Hungarian crown jewels and and a third world war.

The pictures of this tortured man (zombie), at his "trial" were shown around the world. I wonder how many U.S. public schooled students have ever been shown them. I'll never forget them.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking July 18, 2012 | 3:11 p.m.

Wow. From the controversy of gays in the Boy Scouts to Communist brainwashing and liberal public schools in only 3 short posts! I'm impressed.


(Report Comment)
frank christian July 18, 2012 | 3:13 p.m.

I intended to write, shown the pictures, "or even told about the atrocity.", but did not get it inserted properly.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 18, 2012 | 4:17 p.m.

@Mark Foecking:

"It's a big canoe, there is room for all."

[A line from the children's book "Red Fox & His Canoe."]

Better "big canoes" than "restricted" ones. :)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 18, 2012 | 5:25 p.m.

I support the Boy Scouts in this matter. They are a private organization and others should butt the hell out.

I know EXACTLY the predatory behavior that existed from senior staff at Camp Osceola in MO ca. 25 years ago, and I want no repeat.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.