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 Change.org)
The Boy Scouts of America‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúToday‚Äôs delivery marks one final push by the more than 1.4 million signers who‚Äôve taken action on Change.org demanding an end to the Boy Scout‚Äôs national ban on gay youth and parents,‚ÄĚ said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, senior campaign manager for Change.org.
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‚Äôs board meeting.
Groups opposed to lifting the Boy Scouts‚Äô 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‚Äôs meeting.
In a full-page ad in Monday‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúWhile the proposed change is a step in the right direction, we can‚Äôt pretend that passing the buck to the local level will eliminate anti-gay discrimination because it won‚Äôt,‚ÄĚ said HRC‚Äôs vice president for communications Fred Sainz.
‚ÄúGenerations of gay Americans have been told they‚Äôre not good enough to join the Scouts, simply because of who they are,‚ÄĚ Sainz said. ‚ÄúBSA has an opportunity to change that this week by adopting a non-discrimination policy.‚ÄĚ
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.
‚ÄúTo 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,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôt eliminate their ban on gays.
D.C. area Boy Scouts Council calls for ‚Äėcourteous‚Äô discussion
Daniel Mullin, director of the D.C. district for the BSA‚Äôs 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‚Äôs February newsletter, which invites the scouting community to share their opinions and concerns on the issue with the Council‚Äôs leadership.
‚ÄúThis is a topic that many leaders, parents and community members have strongly held opinions about,‚ÄĚ the Council‚Äôs newsletter statement says. ‚ÄúIt 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.‚ÄĚ