Report: Boy Scouts may drop ban on gay scouts, scout leaders

A case study in why (most) gay-marriage supporters won’t despair even if SCOTUS ends up upholding Prop 8 this year: Over time, cultural change will help them achieve what courts can’t or won’t. The Scouts won an epic Supreme Court discrimination case in 2000 protecting their right as a private organization to exclude members based on orientation. A little more than a decade later, they may be ready to jettison the ban and let the local sponsors and parents involved with individual Scout units decide whether gays should be admitted. (Call it the “federalist approach.”) How come? Pressure, from both within and without. But mostly without:

Two corporate CEOs on BSA’s national board, Randall Stephenson of AT&T and James Turley of Ernst & Young, have also said they would work to end the ban. Stephenson is next in line to be the BSA’s national chairman. During the 2012 presidential campaign, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney said the BSA should admit gay scouts and scout leaders.

About 50 local United Way groups and several corporations and charities have concluded that the ban violates their non-discrimination requirements and have ceased providing financial aid to the Boy Scouts. An official of The Human Rights Campaign, an advocate for gay rights, said HRC planned to downgrade its non-discrimination ratings for corporations that continue to give the BSA financial support.

“It’s an extremely complex issue,” said one Boy Scouts of America official, who explained that other organizations have threatened to withdraw their financial support if the BSA drops the ban.

Curious that the Scouts aren’t worried about counter-boycotts by more socially conservative organizations. Maybe they should be:

The Southern Baptist Convention views homosexuality as sinful based on scripture and not acceptable as normal behavior, Mohler said. Ending a national policy on gays would raise a question in the mind of every Scout’s parent and require families to research the policy of each Scout troop and sponsoring organization before joining, he said.

“This is going to raise a fundamental question for the Southern Baptist Convention at national level and in the churches” about whether to reconsider a decades-old relationship with the Boy Scouts, Mohler said.

While that decision would be up to individual Southern Baptist churches, Mohler said: “I’m quite assured that those churches will be reconsidering that relationship if this policy goes into effect.”

Yeah, the key question here obviously is whether the “federalist approach” can satisfy either side or whether individual units’ decision to admit/deny gay Scouts will trigger a national ban of the BSA by some groups. Mohler seems to be hinting that it will in that excerpt (“at the national level”); a GLAAD spokesman who talked to USA Today called the new Boy Scout proposal a good “first step,” so presumably they’re hoping for further action (like, say, an order from the national board requiring individual Scout units to admit gays?) too. According to CNN, 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are affiliated with a church or religious group, but “some Scouts and Scout parents say that passing the decision to the local level will have little effect on the ground, because many troops have been ignoring the national policy anyway.” How that shakes out under the new policy, I don’t know. Does it actually end up being counterproductive by re-energizing a divisive issue at which most troops were already looking the other way?

Exit quotation from the GOP’s last presidential nominee: “‘I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts, regardless of their sexual orientation,’ Romney said in the video from 1994 recently re-surfaced by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. He added at the time that he supports ‘the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue.'”

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