Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Boy Scouts of America should lift ban on gay members

Flickr/Preston Kemp

There is a vast change proposed to take place across the country as the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is planning to vote on lifting its ban on gay leaders and scouts. For the past 23 years, the BSA has not allowed scouts to be led by gay or lesbian parents, or for openly gay individuals to join.

On Wednesday, Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, Ohio, told CNN she was banned from becoming her son’s leader because she is openly gay.

According to the BSA website, 69.4 percent of all units are chartered to faith-based organizations. And of that percentage, the three biggest supporters of lifting the ban are the Mormon Church, the United Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church, according to an article from this past Monday’s edition of “The New York Times,” “Vote to Eliminate Ban on Gays in Boy Scouts Is on Agenda at Board Meeting.”

More than 39 percent of scouts are involved in these religious affiliations too. BSA participation has gone down 19 percent since 2000, and many people involved believe this drop is due to the ban on gays.

Now, the petition to lift the ban has been signed by 1.4 million supporters.  But I have to step back and wonder, are these people are signing the petition because they believe in equality among people or because they simply want to build up the number of Scouts?

So by allowing homosexuals to join and lead the Scouts, their numbers will grow? Which is the main purpose?

Tyrrell wonders the same thing.

“I think it’s sad that they’re worried about their numbers when we’re talking about children and their feelings and the dangerous message that they’re sending to children that it’s not okay to be who you are, it’s not okay for your parents to be who they are,” she said.

The sheer foolishness in this debate is so evident. Tyrell highlights this idiocy and foolishness of the debate by reminding us that all of the arguments used in this debate are the same ones that have been used throughout history to deny the rights of people who have strayed from the norm.

You love a person of your own gender? That’s great, but you can’t be your son’s scout leader. How are the two even relative?

“Those arguments didn’t work before and they shouldn’t be working now. Why can’t we learn from our mistakes?” Tyrell said.

It’s a question that Americans have been asking for decades.

In Hollywood, it would  seem as if gays and lesbians are fully respected and accepted in American society. Award-winning television shows like “Modern Family,” “Glee,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Will & Grace,” and “Sex and the City,” and movies such as “The Family Stone,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Ted,” “Milk,” and many more portray or even highlight same-sex couples. Pop culture itself tends to have a welcoming tolerance for homosexuality stance towards the gay and lesbian community.

But why is it just in Hollywood? Are all directors, writers and producers in the entertainment industry simply supporters of equality, or is it America’s way of simulating a world where everyone is equal, but solely on a TV screen?

Equality among gays is spreading across the borders not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world. On Wednesday, an article in “The New York Times,” “British Lawmakers Vote for Gay Marriage Despite Conservative Split,” was written about a bill proposed to legalize same-sex marriage in Britain.

In a letter published in “The Daily Telegraph,” three cabinet ministers wrote in support of the bill, Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, was quoted in the article in a letter published in The Daily Telegraph.

He wrote: “Marriage has evolved over time. We believe that opening it up to same-sex couples will strengthen, not weaken, the institution.”

Opening up equality among any number of people is smart.

“When there is equality, there is progress,” Tyrrell said.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. As of Wednesday, the BSA made a decision to postpone the vote until May. There isn’t a question in my mind that lifting the ban is a good thing. It’s a positive step forward toward the future, so why not take that step now? I’d say it’s going to happen eventually. In the same way that the election of a black president was inevitably going to happen someday, there will be a gay scout leader in the future; if not tomorrow or May, someday soon enough.

How about we observe the obvious and instead explore examine the people who wish to continue the ban on gays instead? What kind of person genuinely believes in a tradition that discriminates against members of society is one we should keep?

Gov. Rick Perry does. He rejects the idea that gay youths or leaders can join the scouts. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, supports the lift of the ban.

“I think that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunities the same way that everybody does in every institution and walk of life,” he said in a pre-Super Bowl interview on CBS. “The scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives and I think that nobody should be barred from that.”

Obama stands behind people like Tyrrell, who said that“1.4 million people are standing behind us and the very least that I can do is keep fighting for them.”

Former BSA assistant scout master James Dale, also interviewed on CNN on Wednesday, sued the group for barring him because he was openly gay.

“For 23 years, they thought excluding gay people was okay. … Their heads are back in the 70’s or 50’s. Times have changed,” Dale said.

In order to stay relevant and to teach our youth the fundamentals of being a modern American, I think the BSA needs to lift the ban. They have lost numbers of members, supporters, funders and money overall because of it. But what it really comes down to is equality in society.

Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910. That was 103 years ago. Dale said times have changed. And he’s right. I hope the BSA realizes it soon.

If it doesn’t, 103 years from today the BSA will be in history books.

Samara Abramson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].


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    Dr. Ed CuttingFeb 11, 2013 at 1:37 am

    The thing being missed here is that the Boy Scouts were almost destroyed by a pandemic of sexual abusers in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s — a problem far worse than the Catholic Church ever had, and the gay ban is how the Boy Scouts dealt with this.

    When the rape crisis centers hire a 50% male staff, then come talk to me about gays in the Scouts. But not before.

    I’m not saying this was the best way to deal with NAMBLA and the rest of the issues, but it was a desperate time and this is what they did.