Will the Boy Scouts Reverse Its Anti-Gay Policy?

An outcry over the dismissal of an openly gay den mother has prompted the Scouts to consider ending its contentious membership policy.

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H. Armstrong Roberts

Boy and girl scouts saluting.

UPDATE: In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America has clarified its position on the issue of gay membership. “Contrary to media reports, the Boy Scouts of America has no plans to change its membership policy. The introduction of a resolution does not indicate the organization is “reviewing” a policy or signal a change in direction,” the statement said. The organization’s policy, it reiterated, is: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

For 102 years, the Boys Scouts of America has excluded boys and adult volunteers who identify as gay with such unapologetic conviction that one has to wonder if there’s a badge for that. But after coming under fire for ousting an openly gay den mother, the organization says it’s considering a resolution to end its contentious membership policy.

Jennifer Tyrell, 32, was dismissed from her 7-year-old son’s Tiger Cubs pack in April over her sexuality. Since then, a change.org petition demanding her reinstatement has collected nearly 300,000 signatures. Tyrell’s son presented the petition to officials at the Boy Scouts annual meeting last month.

(MORE: Can a Scout be Gay?)

The resolution has been referred to a committee for review, although it seems unlikely that the Boy Scouts will reverse its anti-gay membership policy anytime soon. Robert Mazzuca, chief executive of the Scouts, told USA Today that the organization has no plans to make any changes, while spokesman Deron Smith said that the petition was received “as a courtesy.”

The organization’s exclusion of gays and lesbians has made headlines for years, most notably in 2000 when the Supreme Court ruled that, as a private organization, the Boy Scouts could legally do so. The ruling cited a 1991 BSA position statement that characterized homosexuality as “inconsistent” with the group’s requirements “that a Scout be morally straight” and “clean in word and deed.” The organization also bans atheists and agnostics.

The comparatively progressive Girls Scouts of America, by contrast, maintains a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality and, as of last year, is inclusive of transgender youth. A statement by the Girls Scouts of Colorado, which accepted its first biologically male member in 2011, summed up the organization’s position thusly: “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

MORE: All For a Scout’s Honor

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