With 1,400 local leaders in attendance, the Boy Scouts of America's national organization voted 61% to 38% to allow openly gay members at its two-day meeting in Grapevine, Texas on Thursday. In 1991 the BSA banned openly gay individuals from participating because they believed homosexuality was incompatible with the Scout's oath: "On my honor I will do my best .... to keep myself physically strong, mentally alert and morally straight."
Some supporters of the ban argued that homosexuals cannot be "morally straight." Others such as John Stemberger, the founder of OnMyHonor.Net, a coalition supporting the ban believe that "allowing open homosexuality will inject the flaunting of gay sexuality and leftist politics right into the veins of the Boy Scouts of America." Stemberger added that the Scouts accept homosexuals who keep their sexual orientation secret: "If you've been in the program long enough you know who they are. But they're discrete. They're not waving the gay flag." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have voiced their opposition to the proposal, which would remove the ban.
Opponents of the ban, such as Jennifer Tyrell, who was removed from her management position at her son's troop for being a lesbian says, "they're training these boys to go out into the world and be leaders. But the world is ever changing, ever accepting, ever inclusive." While many do not feel affected by this issue, Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout who is fighting the ban says all of society will be affected. "Even if you aren't an Eagle Scout — even if you never were a Boy Scout or a Girl Scout for even a day — the future of Scouting will affect everyone. Scouting is an organization and an experience worth saving," and added, "I'd say that Scouting is likely somewhat less American than baseball, but probably more American than apple pie." Supporters of the change include both President Obama, and former Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Although, the latest polling puts support for ending the ban at a solid 75% among those aged 18-29 nationwide, 70% of all Scout troops are currently run by faith-based organization. "It would surprise me if the good people voting today would fall for the deceptive campaign to change the longstanding policy of not allowing open homosexuals in the Boy Scouts," said Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute in Washington, D.C. "Such a change would utterly change Scouting and dramatically reduce their ranks. The Catholic and Mormon groups would simply have to walk away."
People on both sides of the debate acknowledge that the effects of this vote will go far beyond BSA's 2.6 million members. "Somehow, Scouting has become one of the focal points in the debate on homosexuality," Boy Scouts President Wayne Perry wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today.
The vote to end the ban on gay youths does not extend to gay Scout leaders. The passage of the measure signifies a huge cultural shift in one of America's most important youth organizations, and a sign of the growing acceptance of LGBT Americans in society.