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Holder criticizes Boy Scouts for ban on gay adults

Eric Holder, United States Justice Department, Barack Obama Administration, Lincoln Memorial, the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, civil rights, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder criticized the Boy Scouts for its continued ban on gay adults (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder criticized the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday night for its continued ban on openly gay scoutmasters, saying the organization’s policy “preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes.”

During the keynote speech at Lambda Legal’s annual dinner in D.C., the nation’s top lawyer compared the Boy Scouts’ policy to the now repealed law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” calling the ban on adult leaders “a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding.”

“Today, courageous lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals routinely put their lives on the line as members of America’s armed services,” Holder said. “They inspire us, they protect us, and they defend us. And if these men and women are fit for military service, then surely they are fit to mentor, to teach, and to serve as role models for the leaders of future generations.”

Just over a year ago, the Boy Scouts lifted its policy prohibiting gay youths from participating in the organization, but retained the ban on gay scout masters. Although LGBT advocates at the time praised the organization for the move, they also said they looked forward to the day when openly gay adults could take part in the 104-year-old institution.

The national president of the Boy Scouts, Robert Gates, addressed the issue of gay scout masters in a speech to the scouting community last month, saying he would “oppose any effort” to re-open the issue during his tenure at the organization.

“I believe strongly that to re-open the membership issue or try to take last year’s decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement — with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own,” Gates said.

Prior to assuming his position as president of the Boy Scouts, Gates led the efforts as defense secretary to implement open service in the wake of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin commended Holder for criticizing the Boy Scouts prohibition on openly gay adult leaders.

“Attorney General Holder is yet again demonstrating his unwavering commitment to equality for LGBT people, and we are grateful that he has added his voice to the chorus of Americans who condemn the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policy,” Griffin said. “Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans.”


WGAY podcasts: April 26 and May 10

WGAY discussions of recent Blade articles “Boy Scouts proposes end to gay scouts ban” (April 26) and “Delaware approves marriage equality.” (May 10)


Boy Scouts to vote on ending gay ban

boy scouts, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

IRVING, Texas — The Boy Scouts of America met this week to consider lifting the ban on gay Scouts. A final vote was expected Thursday, after the Blade’s print deadline. Watch here for more updates as we wait for results of the vote.

The proposal to lift the ban did not include ending the ban on openly gay Scout leaders, a move that was widely criticized by LGBT advocates.

As reported earlier this month in the Blade, Governor Rick Perry of Texas — a former Republican White House contender — has become one of the most outspoken voices in favor of keeping the ban on gay scouts in place.

“The fact is, this is a private organization,” Perry said during a Family Research Council webcast. “Their values and principles have worked for a century now, and for pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because it just happens to be the flavor of the month, so to speak, and to tear apart one of the great organizations that have served millions of young men — to help them become men and become great fathers — that is just not appropriate.”


Mixed reaction to Boy Scouts plan on gay members

Zach Walls, gay news, Washington Blade, Boy Scouts of America

‘This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,’ said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality. (Photo courtesy of

A statement issued by the Boy Scouts of America on Monday saying the organization is considering dropping its national policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders was hailed by LGBT advocates as an important breakthrough in the fight for equality.

But two of the nation’s leading anti-gay groups warned that if the BSA’s board votes next week to drop its ban on gays, as predicted by sources familiar with the Boy Scouts, it would lead to a “mass exodus” of scouts and scout leaders from traditional, religious-oriented families and communities.

In its statement released on Monday, the BSA said the change it was considering would allow the religious, civic and educational organizations that are chartered to operate scouting units throughout the country to make the final decision on whether or not to accept gays.

“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,” the statement says.

“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” says the statement.

“BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families,” it says.

NBC News, which first reported that BSA was considering lifting its gay ban prior to the release of the statement, also reported that the organization was expected to approve the changes at a board of directors meeting within the next week.

Janelle Moritz, a public relations representative for the Boy Scouts of America, told the Blade she could not confirm the NBC report about the timing of a board meeting or what the board would decide. She said BSA would not comment on the matter beyond what it said in its statement, which doesn’t say when the group will decide on the issue.

Other news media outlets, however, reported that BSA sources confirmed that the board meeting would take place next week, mostly likely at the BSA national headquarters in Irving, Texas.

“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations, and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” said Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect,” he said.

“This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,” said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality. “We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Boy Scouts’ expected policy change follows the growing support for LGBT equality from the American people.

“The pulse of equality is strong in America, and today it beats a bit faster with news that the Boy Scouts may finally put an end to its long history of discrimination,” Griffin said in a statement. “Our nation and its leaders respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, and it’s time the Boy Scouts echo those values.”

A far different response emerged from leaders of the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, two national conservative groups that oppose LGBT rights.

“The Boy Scouts of America board would be making a serious mistake to bow to the strong-arm tactics of LGBT activists and open the organization to homosexuality,” said FRC President Tony Perkins in a statement.

“The mission of the Boy Scouts is to ‘instill values in young people’ and ‘prepare them to make ethical choices,’ and the Scouts’ oath includes a pledge ‘to do my duty to God’ and keep himself ‘morally straight,” he said. “It is entirely reasonable and not at all unusual for those passages to be interpreted as requiring abstinence from homosexual conduct.”

The American Family Associated posted on its website a column by anti-gay advocate Bryan Fischer, who quipped that Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach convicted on child molestation charges, would become “the new poster boy” for the Boy Scouts.

“This move, unless the BSA dramatically reverses itself in the immediate future, represents the capitulation to the forces of sexual deviancy,” he said. “The Scouts will have made a deliberate decision to put the sexual integrity of every young man in their care at risk.”

Within a day of the BSA’s announcement that it was considering changing its policy on gay scouts and scout leaders, the FRC and the American Family Association posted appeals on their websites urging members and supporters to call the BSA to urge the group to leave its ban on gays in place.

“As the BSA board meets next week, it is crucial that they hear from those who stand with them and their current policy regarding homosexuality,” FRC said.

Possibly in anticipation of strong opposition by conservative and religious groups, the BSA emphasized in its own statement that the change would allow local units to decide whether or not to admit gays.

“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a policy to units, members, or parents,” the statement says. “Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”

The BSA website says more than 100,000 scouting units are owned and operated by independent chartered organizations.

“Of these, 64.9 percent of all units are chartered to faith-based organizations, 22.7 percent of all units are chartered to civic organizations, and 7.9 percent of all units are chartered to educational organizations,” it says.

It says the chartered organizations are responsible for providing meeting facilities, providing “quality leadership for the scouting unit,” and appointing a representative to coordinate unit operations

A list of BSA chartered organizations posted on its website shows a wide range of religious and civic groups that are likely to differ on whether or not to admit gay scouts and scout leaders.

Among them are the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and “Baptist Churches,” which traditionally have condemned homosexuality. Others, however, include the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church and Lutheran churches, which have had more accepting policies toward LGBT people.

Civic groups listed on the BSA website as chartered organizations include local Chambers of Commerce, Lions and Rotary clubs, American Legion organizations, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, YMCA groups, “non-profit agencies,” and “home owners” groups.

The BSA’s statement saying it is considering removing its national policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders comes seven months after the BSA announced it had conducted a two-year review of the ban and decided to leave it in place.

Monday’s announcement also comes after several prominent corporations, including United Parcel Service and Intel Corporation, withdrew as BSA financial sponsors, saying the gay ban violated their corporate polices of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Others opposing the Boy Scouts ban on gays have organized online petition drives that have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures calling on the BSA to drop its gay ban.

Among those drawing attention to efforts to end the ban is Eagle Scout Wahls of Iowa, who is straight but has spoken publically about his two lesbian moms.

Sharon Brackett, co-founder and board chair of the statewide transgender advocacy organization Gender Rights Maryland, said she experienced firsthand how at least some Boy Scout troops and the chartered organizations that operate them are LGBT supportive.

Brackett said she served as a scout master for the local Boy Scout troop in Savage, Md., where her sons were members, before she transitioned from male to female. She said after taking a break during her transition period, the troop and a local Methodist church that served as the chartered organization, welcomed her back once she completed her gender transition.

“My experience has been positive,” she said, noting that women have long served as Boy Scout troop leaders and officials in the chartered organization covering her area had no problem with her coming back.

Brackett said she supports the proposed change by the BSA to leave it up to the chartered organizations to decide whether gay scouts or troops can be admitted. At least in Maryland, she said, there are enough local troops and chartered organizations to choose from that would result in gay youth finding one that will be welcoming.

“Having that choice is the best next step for us at this time,” she said.


Boy Scouts board meets to consider lifting gay ban

Zach Wahls, gay news, Washington Blade, Boy Scouts of America

Zach Wahls, who is straight, but has two lesbian mothers, delivers petitions to lift a ban on gay scouts to the national Boy Scouts of America conference in Orlando last year. (Photo courtesy of

The Boy Scouts of America’s national board began a three-day meeting in Irving, Tex., on Monday in which it was expected to vote Wednesday on a proposal to end its national policy of banning gay scouts and scout leaders.

As the board met behind closed doors in a hotel near the BSA’s national headquarters just outside Dallas, a contingent of current and former gay scouts, scout leaders, and their straight supporters delivered stacks of petitions with 1.4 million signatures calling for the Boy Scouts to end the gay ban.

“Today’s delivery marks one final push by the more than 1.4 million signers who’ve taken action on demanding an end to the Boy Scout’s national ban on gay youth and parents,” said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, senior campaign manager for

The national LGBT groups Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Human Rights Campaign joined the gay-supportive scouts and scout leaders, including Scouts for Equality, in drawing national attention to the BSA’s board meeting.

Groups opposed to lifting the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays, including the Family Research Council, announced they had organized their own efforts to lobby the board against changing its policy. Among those calling on the BSA to leave the gay ban in place is Texas Governor Rick Perry.

But the gay supportive side appeared to be capturing more media attention on the opening day of the board’s meeting.

In a full-page ad in Monday’s edition of the Dallas Morning News, HRC urged the Boy Scouts to go beyond their proposal to allow local Boy Scout councils to decide whether to admit gay scouts or scout leaders.

The BSA announced last week that its proposal would end the organization’s national ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. The announcement said the change, if adopted by the board, would leave it to the local Councils and chartered organizations that sponsor Boy Scout troops across the country to decide whether to admit gay scouts and scout leaders.

“While the proposed change is a step in the right direction, we can’t pretend that passing the buck to the local level will eliminate anti-gay discrimination because it won’t,” said HRC’s vice president for communications Fred Sainz.

“Generations of gay Americans have been told they’re not good enough to join the Scouts, simply because of who they are,” Sainz said. “BSA has an opportunity to change that this week by adopting a non-discrimination policy.”

HRC also announced that its foundation has adopted a more stringent criterion for its widely watched Corporate Equality Index, which rates corporations on their policies on LGBT related issues, including personnel policies.

“To receive a perfect score in the future, companies would have to prohibit philanthropic giving to non-religious organizations that have a written policy of anti-gay discrimination, or permit its chapters, affiliates, or troops to do so,” HRC announced in a Feb. 4 press release.

The newly announced criterion would lead to a lower the rating for companies that donate money to the Boy Scouts if the BSA or local Boy Scout councils don’t eliminate their ban on gays.

D.C. area Boy Scouts Council calls for ‘courteous’ discussion

Daniel Mullin, director of the D.C. district for the BSA’s National Capital Area Council, told the Blade on Monday that Boy Scouts and scout leaders in the D.C. region were watching with interest over how the national board will decide on the issue of the gay ban.

He pointed to a statement in the National Capital Area Council’s February newsletter, which invites the scouting community to share their opinions and concerns on the issue with the Council’s leadership.

“This is a topic that many leaders, parents and community members have strongly held opinions about,” the Council’s newsletter statement says. “It is a complex issue and can engender significant debate. As you discuss the issue with your friends and fellow Scouts, please remember that a Scout is courteous and kind.”


Boy Scouts delay decision on gays

Zach Wahls, gay news, Washington Blade, Boy Scouts of America

Zach Wahls delivers petitions to lift a ban on gay Scouts to the national Boy Scouts of America conference in Orlando last year. (Photo courtesy of

The Boy Scouts of America announced Wednesday a decision to delay a vote on repealing the organization’s gay ban.

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” the statement from the board read.

“To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013.”

LGBT activists expressed disappointment at the delay, including several who had been removed from the organization after it was revealed they were gay.

“It was disappointing that the BSA National Board decided to postpone the decision today, but at the same time this discussion has been encouraging because it’s the first time that this conversation has happened among Scout leaders about allowing gays to serve as Scouts and leaders,” said former Scout and North Carolina-based QNotes editor, Matt Comer, in a statement to the Blade on Wednesday. Comer, who was an active Scout and troop’s chaplain aide, came out as gay in 8th grade at 14 years old, and was removed from the Scouts when he began a gay-straight alliance at his high school in 9th grade, just short of reaching the rank of Life Scout, which would have set him on the path of Eagle Scout.

“This conversation is going to happen over the next few months and will give an opportunity to current and former Scouts who have been discriminated against to have a voice in this conversation and hopefully have a voice in the coming vote to happen in May,” Comer — who is also founder of the Inclusive Scouting Network — continued. “It’s encouraging that this organization has been willing to discuss including gays and lesbians, after so many years of intransigence.”

“A Scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave today,” said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was removed as den mother of her son’s troop when she was revealed to be a lesbian. “The Boy Scouts had the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents, but they’ve failed us yet again. No parent should have to look their child in the eye and explain that the Boy Scouts don’t want us. Our fight will continue and we will continue to educate donors and supporters of the Boy Scouts about the effects of their anti-gay policy.”

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout, and founder of Scouts for Equality denounced the decision. Though Wahls himself is straight, he published a book last year about growing up with lesbian mothers, and structured the book’s content around the Scouts’ pillars of character.

“This is an abdication of responsibility,” Wahls said in a statement, soon after the board announced its decision. “By postponing this decision, the BSA has caved to those who argue that their ideas about being gay trump basic Scouting values of kindness, courtesy and bravery. Scouting was built on a foundation of respect and dignity. Today, the BSA cracked that foundation.”

“It’s a disappointing announcement because for the next three months Scouts and Scout families will continue to suffer under this silent shame,” Wahls told the Blade on Wednesday. “These Scouts and Scout families will be forced back into the closet after getting their hopes up last week.”

“We continue to call for an end to discrimination at any level because discrimination is devastating to all kids, gay or straight,” Wahls continued, adding that he is optimistic about the chances of a vote in May going in favor of lifting the national ban on gay Scouts. “[Lifting the ban] will lead to less discrimination and less discrimination is better than the status quo.”

Some worried about the fallout from lifting the ban welcomed the decision to delay.

“This is a complex issue,” said Les Baron, CEO and Scout Executive of National Capital Area Council (NCAC). “It impacts our program guidelines and the local chartering organizations that sponsor our units in many ways, and the National Executive Board wants to ensure they have examined every aspect of the decision closely before taking action on the resolution.”

“We fully support the board’s decision,” said Baron. “Some of our members will disagree and some will agree with the Board’s decision, but I believe a good partnership does not require full agreement on every societal issue. Our disagreements are minor compared to our shared vision and common goals – delivering the foremost character development and values-based leadership training program for local youth.”


Carney questioned on Boy Scouts, benefits for gay troops

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answers questions at the White House daily briefing

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney took questions on the Boy Scouts and extending benefits for gay troops (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had little to say on Wednesday in response to questions on LGBT issues from a trio of reporters — referring to previously stated remarks from himself and President Obama.

Under questioning from the Associated Press, Carney had no response to the decision to delay until May the Boy Scouts of America board vote on whether to lift the ban on openly gay members. Instead, Carney referred to the interview Obama gave Sunday on CBS News in which he said the organization should change its policy:

Associated Press: Does the White House have any response to the Boy Scouts delaying their decision on allowing gay members and leaders?

Jay Carney: We have no response. I don’t have a response to their process. You know that the President believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century.  He also, as you know, opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such believes, as he said just on Sunday, that gay Americans ought to be able to participate in the Boy Scouts.

But in terms of the process of their evaluation of their policies, I don’t have a comment.

Fox News’ Ed Henry asked Carney to elaborate on the evolution on Obama’s views regarding anti-gay discrimination — noting the President came out for same-sex marriage, but didn’t support it in 2009.

Carney referred to the interview Obama gave last year to ABC News when he came out for marriage equality. Under further questioning, Carney observed that nation’s evolution as a whole on LGBT issues in recent years.

Fox News: Last thing is on the Boy Scouts. When you were asked about it before you said that the President was motivated in large part because he opposes discrimination in all forms, of course. He believed the same about discrimination in 2009, I assume, and yet was against same-sex marriage. What has driven his evolution on issues like same-sex marriage?

Jay Carney: I think the President gave a lengthy interview about just this very topic to Robin Roberts last year, so I would point you to his comments about his evolution.

Fox News: But he opposed discrimination — is it because of public sentiment changing so much over the last decade?

Carney: Well, again, I would — for his personal evolution, a term that he used — I would point you to his words. I think that there’s no question, as many have written about and commented on, that our country has as a whole evolved significantly in our view, the public’s view, of these matters. And the President believes that’s a very good thing.

Finally, in response to questioning from National Public Radio’s Ari Shapiro, Carney had no comment on media reports that the Pentagon would this week make an announcement on extending limited partner benefits to service members.

National Public Radio: The Pentagon is expected this week to announce same-sex — benefits for same-sex spouses, rather. A group in Congress has been open about pushing the Defense Secretary to do this. Was the White House involved in pushing the Pentagon to do this, and do you have any reaction to the step that is expected?

Jay Carney: I think I would refer you to the Pentagon for an announcement that they haven’t made yet. So I don’t have anything for you on that at this point.

NPR: Are you pleased to hear that it’s going to happen?

Carney: Well, I think in answer to questions I’ve had previously, the president has been very attentive to this issue and believes that it needs to be addressed. So I don’t want to get ahead of any announcements, but it is certainly something that has been on the president’s radar and that he believes needed to be and needs to be addressed.


D.C. hardware store drops Boy Scouts partnership

Ace Hardware, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Another Believer via Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON—The owner of several D.C. hardware stores has canceled an event that promoted a Boy Scouts of America program.

Gina Schaefer, who owns seven Ace Hardware stores in the nation’s capital, had been promoting the Cub Scouts’ Soapbox Derby Race before she ended the promotion. A number of social media networks raised questions about it in light of the growing controversy over the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay scouts and troop leaders.

The Boy Scouts of America last week announced it would delay a decision on repealing the policy until May.


Madonna presents Anderson’s GLAAD Award

Madonna hits a home run with her speech prior to presenting Anderson Cooper the Vito Russo Award at this year’s GLAAD Media Awards, taking on Russian President Vladmir Putin, the anti-gay bills in Russia, the Boy Scouts and so much more.


Cartoon: Institutionalizing hypocrisy

Scouts institutionalized hypocrisy by Ranslem

Listen up! The scouts are going to allow gay members in as youths, but kick them out when they reach adulthood. Does this make sense? (Ranslem)