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A Sign of the Times

By Eric Hunter · August 3rd, 2000 · Gay & Lesbian Issues
I have a confession to make. I wasn't outraged when the Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 ruling last month in favor of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) policy excluding openly gay people from its membership. I was grateful that the bigoted, anti-gay organization had finally backed itself into a corner like a struggling fighter just before he goes down for the count.

Since I was never involved with Scouting, I don't have firsthand knowledge of the group. But being committed to a man who, much like the now-famous James Dale, spent a significant portion of his childhood and young adult years involved in Scouting, I've heard quite a bit about it.

Unlike Dale, my partner Dave wasn't expelled from Scouting. He just lost interest. But I've always found it fascinating that Dave feels like his involvement in the Boy Scouts made him the man he is today.

To this day, Dave can recite both The Scouts Oath and The Scout Law. And he speaks fondly of his very vivid memories of Scouting and all the crucial leadership skills and self-confidence he gained.

Since James Dale's legal battles with the Boy Scouts have been raging on since 1990 when, after a story in local New Jersey newspaper identified him as co-president of the Rutgers University Lesbian/Gay Alliance, he was dismissed from the group, the topic comes up at home from time to time.

And we've discussed the various arguments that BSA has used to justify its stance repeatedly. But it wasn't until recently that I finally figured it out.

Groups like BSA, based on outdated ideals grounded in narrow-minded rhetoric, are simply no longer relevant in our society. And instead of the Supreme Court decision becoming a feather in the organization's cap, we can only hope it's the very thing that spells the organization's demise.

Weighing in on the decision, an editorial in The Washington Post pointed out that the Boy Scouts' effort to exclude gay people "places them outside the ever-widening circle of acceptance of gays and lesbians in this country."

As a result of the ruling, The New York Times reports, municipal governments in more than a dozen cities -- including Chicago, New York, Washington and San Francisco -- have severed civic ties with the Scouts or are considering measures to keep them from using public property because its policies run counter to local anti-bias laws.

According to the Aug. 17 issue of Rolling Stone, the United Methodist Church, which sponsors 420,000 Scouts, more than any other group, is struggling with the decision. On July 10, delegates to the Episcopal Church's annual convention passed a resolution calling on the BSA to grant membership to gays.

Groups continue to speak out and protest the decision this month. Scouting for All, an organization that's been pressing since 1998 for BSA to lift is membership ban, is planning nationwide demonstrations on Aug. 21, including a rally outside BSA's headquarters in Irving, Texas.

Now our community might not have won the fight for equal rights, yet. But in the case of Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, we did, in a way, win.

Without support in the form of meeting space, volunteers and donations from large corporations and organizations who require their beneficiaries to maintain policies that are in line with their own mission and values, the days of outdated groups like BSA are numbered.

The court of public opinion has spoken and the message -- fairness and equality -- is clear. Like the old song says, "It's a sign of the times."

CONTACT ERIC HUNTER: letters@citybeat.com


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