Greg Bourke (left), David Knapp, and Pascal Tessier | Photo by Danielle Levitt
In what is being cited as a historic change, the Boy Scouts of America officially lifts its ban on openly gay scouts with the new year, according to an AP story in the Houston Chronicle. The policy was approved during an annual BSA meeting back in May.
As Pascal Tessier told us when photographed and interviewed for this year's Out100 "It was a bittersweet victory," since it only allows youth under 18. When he turns that age, he's automatically booted out. "I want [others] to feel that happiness."
Brad Haddock, a BSA national executive board member who chairs the policy implementation committee, said: "My hope is there will be the same effect this Jan. 1 as the Y2K scare. It's business as usual, nothing happens and we move forward."
Although some churches are dropping BSA and some conservative families are turning to a newly created organization known as Trail Life USA, there haven't been many reported defections (as some had predicted).
But it seems the real issue at all the heart of all the fears here, human sexuality, are being addressed in some fashion. Although the new membership policy means that youths can't be barred from the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, or coed Venturers program solely on the basis of sexual orientation, one BSA document reads: "Any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting...No member may use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda, including on the matter of sexual orientation."
That would seem to imply that no one can do an Eagle Scout Project that would help LGBTQ youth or elders and seems to echo the Russian laws prohibiting "homosexual propaganda" that have caused so much consternation.
Seeming to anticipate the issues that could arise, there is also a list of answers to frequently asked questions, including:
- Could a Scout march in uniform in a gay-pride parade? No, says the BSA. "Each youth member is free as an individual to express his or her thoughts or take action on political or social issues but must not use Scouting's official uniforms and insignia when doing so."
- How publicly active could a gay Scout be, in terms of gay-rights advocacy? The BSA's reply: "While a youth member may acknowledge his or her sexual preference, that acknowledgment may not reach the level of distraction, which may include advocacy, promotion, or the distribution of information of a sexual nature."
- On showering: "The adult leaders have the discretion to arrange private showering times and locations."
- Sleeping arrangements: "If a Scout or parent of a Scout makes a request to not tent with another Scout, their wishes should be honored."