The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is considering opening up membership to gay boys and men. After a much-anticipated Executive Board meeting on Feb. 4, the National Council announced that they will release a final decision in May at the National Annual Meeting.
However, local troop members continue to ponder the consequences of such a policy change.
Senior Peter Foley, an Eagle Scout, is in favor of the ban, recognizing that the BSA is one of the few organizations that have stayed consistent with their original values.
“The removal of the ban could have a negative impact on the Boy Scouts whose traditional code of conduct has served them well,” Foley said. “Boy Scouts provide a place where guys just go out and do guy things and not have to deal with issues of sexuality.”
The National Council is hoping to reach a conclusion with the help of voting representatives from local councils. Though the annual meeting is several months away, students and their families are already finding ways to let their voices be heard.
“My parents have already sent an email,” Foley said, “and I plan on sending one as well.”
Other scouts are not as passionate about either side in the upcoming decision. While not particularly in favor of the ban, others do not think its repeal would make much of a difference.
“It’s completely irrelevant. I’ve never heard that the ban has been enforced anywhere,” one scout, who chose to remain anonymous, said. “I know for a fact that there are two gay members in my troop.”
Scoutmaster David Dankworth is not overly concerned with the ban either. Dankworth has served as the scoutmaster of Troop 673 in Great Falls for almost two years.
“In the vast majority of scouting activities, if a troop is running well, gender preferences do not come up as a subject of conversation or concern. They are not part of the program,” he said. “The Boy Scouts are primarily about developing good character, citizenship, and leadership skills in young men, while having fun with friends and learning useful life skills. The scout oath and law are just about the only rules required.”
Even if the National Council decides to repeal the ban, not all gays would be guaranteed membership. Rather, it would be left up to the organizations that support the Boy Scout troops, whether religious, educational or civic, to decide whether to grant membership or not.
“The members of the National Council would be doing the best thing that they could by leaving it to the supporting organizations,” junior and Eagle Scout Will Ashe said, “because there’s no way they can force the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Catholic Church to accept gays.”
Over 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are affiliated with religious groups or organizations, many of which hold anti-gay beliefs.
“There are a wide variety of troops in communities across the world,” Dankworth said. “Families choose to join troops that are compatible with their values, beliefs and interests.”
Another issue that has caused much concern is pedophilia and the potential for Boy Scouts leaders to assault or approach the children in the troops sexually.
Despite his religious and personal beliefs favoring the ban, Scoutmaster Jeff Erickson of Troop 1966 in Fairfax does not see gay adult leaders as a potential threat to the scouts.
“The Boy Scouts have a strong youth protection program. Every adult leader is required to go through training,” he said.
Troops enact “two-deep leadership rules” which require two adult leaders or one adult leader and one parent at all scouting activities. One-on-one interaction between leaders and scouts is prohibited.
Erickson trusts the potential repeal of the ban would not have a significantly detrimental impact on his troop.
“The Boy Scouts will remain an organization dedicated to teaching young boys and young men how to grow to become great citizens,” he said.
(This article originally appeared in the February 28, 2013 print edition.)