Blogger’s note: This started as one post with three points, but as it grew way too long, I chose to break it up into a series of three posts all about the Boy Scouts (BSA’s) decision to allow gay youth but continue to discriminate against gay adults.


For me, yesterday’s progress with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voting to allow gay youth was exciting, and by the reactions, it is clear that this was real progress yet there is more work to do. There are folks extremely unhappy on both sides of the issue, which often happens when something is too much for some and yet not enough for others. And that’s where the BSA is today.

For me, there are three points I want to make about the BSA vote, and these are articulated across three blog posts, parts 1, 2, and 3.

Activists who seek full equality for the LGBTQ community are sometimes a part of the problem rather than the solution.

Activists can be boneheads too and can slow the progress towards full equality when they are too caught up in a binary right/wrong  all/nothing for any action. For example, Truth Wins Out has condemned the BSA change. Doesn’t condemn sound like a very intense ad dramatic word? For the record, I think the world of Truth Wins Out and Wayne Besen. I am glad they are out there and glad they do what they do.  I just disagree with a word choice here in the use of the word, “condemn” because it doesn’t accomplish anything positive in the struggle for full equality.

Today’s Boy Scout’s decision was insulting and pandered to ignorance and bigotry at the expense of  gay people and their families. Allowing gay scouts but not adult scout leaders was a compromise – only in the sense that BSA compromised its integrity and decency. Let’s be clear — this was not a step forward, but a step backward, because it reinforced the most vile stereotypes and misconceptions deliberately peddled by anti-gay activists.

Compare that to this statement issued by Equality PA:

The decision to lift the ban is the first time the organization has welcomed openly gay youth — an important step in the right direction. The Boy Scouts of America is more in touch with modern America today than it was yesterday. But the Boy Scouts of America still has a long way to go before it will regain the trust of its donors, members, and the American people, a majority of which think this ban must end not only for kids, but for adults too. Maintaining the ban on gay adults sends a dangerous message to young people that gay adults, like their friends’ parents or even their teachers, can’t be trusted. By banning gay parents, the Boy Scouts are giving credence to long-debunked myths and stereotypes that promote fear, misunderstanding, discrimination, and hate. The Boy Scouts of today are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. We should be teaching our leaders the importance of diversity and respect.

The two make some very similar points but do it in very different ways. While I think Besen is going for “dramatic,” I am not sure he succeeds. Other groups relayed messages similar to Equality PA’s message.  It is not that novel or remarkable, yet it is different in that it focuses o what needs to come next while at the same time acknowledging the progress that has just happened.

Perhaps more inflammatory comments are useful given that other, more useful comments are also out there in the public discussion, but I’m not yet ready to buy into that in this situation. Here we are talking of a massive cultural shift and combatting some of the biggest myths used to harm and demonize gay men. Ending discrimination may be simple- or a simple concept but not an easy doing.

In any cultural change where it is portrayed as one side has something crucial to lose, no possible progress can come to be if both sides don’t seek a “win” for themselves and a “loss” for the other. In this case, a win for both sides exists as well as the situation is primed for the BSA to accept gay leaders since this the currently policy is so illogical.  To condemn the recent progress, dismisses the very hard work of many that got us this far, and sets an adversarial tone that can harm further cooperation and progress.

In other words, this is good and more is needed, sets the stage for more, where, this is terrible and we want something else, does nothing to open the door for more steps forward.

Please read parts 1 and 2.


  1. BoltonWinpenny says:

    I was really surprised to see the Mormon response which you noted in your newsletter. I did note that their official statement includes “no sex until marriage” and their definition of marriage excludes gays. I really like their distinction between sexual orientation and having sex (something the military should have realized long ago). I was baptized Mormon so instead of hating them after the prop 8 issue, I got involved in the church and now I understand (don’t agree with) their point of view. It’s less frustrating once you understand your opponents view. I suspect their decision was largely due to what you pointed out in your first part of this 3 part blog: scouting is very good for kids. They believe homosexuality can be “fixed” so I suspect they see no reason to exclude broken kids, they probably feel that they can fix them, in part, through scouts.

    • Really appreciate your comment about how opposition is less frustrating when you understand their position. Doesn’t mean you have to agree with it but grasping how they get to their position makes it easier to combat without frustration.

      I’m not engaged in the Mormon Church at all, but much as their position on African Americans changed, I would be their feelings on gays will also change in time.

  2. BoltonWinpenny says:

    Thanks for your thoughts on this Thomas. I like the comparison between Truth Wins Out and Equality PA, both groups I’ve been watching for years. It kind of stings to hear your criticize Truth Wins Out, but I agree with you, it needed to be said and it goes right to your point. I also appreciate that you followed up that you like them anyway. PA Diversity Network is still my favorite. I haven’t seen any formal announcement from them, but I suppose it would be somewhere between the two.