The Boy Scouts of America have made some serious changes this year. After a nationwide poll of both their sponsors and their participants, the BSA voted to allow openly gay scouts to join their troops, but continued their ban on gay scout leaders. Many were concerned that though this was progress, it still represented an atmosphere that wasn't truly tolerant, much less accepting. They seem to be right.
On June 2, a troop of scouts in Utah marched in a gay pride parade. The scouts and one of their accompanying scoutmasters were all wearing the BSA uniform, and they made up the color guard of the parade, proudly holding the American flag.
The two scoutmasters who led the troop have subsequently been threatened by the Salt Lake City BSA Council to have their membership in the organization rescinded unless they issued a written apology. They were also warned that a similar violation in the future would result in their immediate dismissal.
The council claimed that the two men's actions violated the BSA code because it promoted "the gay agenda," while the BSA is a non-political group. The men were free to support the parade as citizens, but not as uniformed BSA members.
The two scoutmasters, Peter Brownstein and Neil Whittaker, have told the media that they have no intentions of issuing any sort of apology. "What we did was carry the American flag proudly at the front of the parade; and having scouts in color guards in parades is as American as apple pie," Brownstein stated. Whittaker added that he didn't think that their participation was in any way political, but that it was merely "being supportive of my fellow human beings."
Of course, the BSA is well within its rights as an organization to make the demand that its members not pursue political activities in uniform. But one would expect that they would apply this standard fairly. Or maybe they don't think scouts lining up to greet Paul Ryan in Utah on his way to a campaign fundraiser is a political agenda?
And perhaps meeting Romney on the campaign trail isn't a political statement either?
If anyone is espousing a political agenda here, it seems to be the BSA itself. But with homophobia becoming more and more vilified, I suppose you have to pretend it's something else these days. And so the Boy Scouts of America remains a marginally more tolerant but still homophobic group, hiding their bias behind a smokescreen of regulations that they only invoke when it suits them.