Longtime Texas governor and one-time presidential contender Rick Perry is making headlines again, comparing the fight to maintain the controversial Boy Scouts of America (BSA) ban on openly gay scouts and leaders, to the fight against slavery.
Appearing last weekend on the socially conservative Family Research Council’s “Stand with Scouts Sunday” webcast, the governor spoke of his personal connection to the organization and his strong support of its current policies: “Scouting has for over a century now been the real bedrock of values and traditions,” he said. “For pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because it just happens to be the ‘Flavor of the Month’…that is just not appropriate.”
The governor then likened the fight of 19th-century Texas Governor Sam Houston to keep the state in the Union, and out of the Confederacy, to the current ban on openly gay scouts — a rather unusual rhetorical move that linked the rejection of one discriminatory practice, to the support of another.
Perry lauded Houston for having “the type of principled leadership” that the BSA ought to use today. “That’s the type of courage that I hope people across this country on the issue of the Scouts” employ, he said.
Perry is a staunch conservative with an extensive history of anti-LGBT remarks, vocally opposing same-sex marriage, supporting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and referring to Texas’ overturned anti-sodomy law as “appropriate.” (And of course, who can forget this little campaign-killing gem?)
The BSA has been widely criticized for its discriminatory policies regarding “open and avowed homosexuals,” which intensified last summer when a closed 11-member committee of senior volunteers and leaders voted unanimously to re-affirm the policy. Both President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney opposed the ban during the 2012 election.
The organization seems to be considering a change of course, however, in the wake of an extensive survey of volunteers and scouts released in February. The organization admitted that attitudes regarding gays and lesbians have “changed rapidly over the past three years,” and that this is “among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.” Among their findings were that a majority of BSA affiliates still supported the ban, though “younger parents and teens tend to oppose the policy.”
The organization has submitted a proposal to the 1,400-member National Council to lift the ban on gay scouts, but maintain it for gay and lesbian scout leaders. According to spokesperson Deron Smith, the organization suggests that “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” The board is expected to vote on the proposal later this month.