Scouts for Equality
by Marene Gustin
More than one month before the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and declined to rule on California’s Prop. 8, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council voted on May 23 to allow gay Scouts, while still banning gay Scout leaders. The decision takes effect January 1, 2014.
Not all troops or their sponsors, in particular the Southern Baptist Church, are okay with the decision. Not even fifteen-year-old scout William Marsh is in complete agreement.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” says the articulate Lamar High School junior. “But it’s not enough. Equality should be equality for all—Scout masters, parents, and everyone.”
The Mormons—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest sponsor of BSA troops—have said they are okay with the move as has the Roman Catholic Church, which is the BSA’s third-largest sponsor, and accounts for about 10 percent of the national total of 2.6 million Scouts.
The Religion News Service reported on May 31 that Edward P. Martin, chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, wrote in a May 29 letter addressed to fellow Catholic Scouters:
“Scouting is still the best youth-serving program available to all youth. We should be encouraged that the change in BSA’s youth membership standard is not in conflict with Catholic teaching,” Martin said, asking that “Catholic Scouters and chartered organization heads not rush to judgment.”
But Marsh still wants more. That’s why he was riding on a Pride float during the parade, to show his support and acceptance of the LBGT community.
“It was the idea of a family friend who was a Scouter,” Marsh says. “He was asked to leave when he came out.”
Out of respect to the organization that he has been a part of since he was seven, Marsh didn’t wear his BSA uniform in the parade.
“I would never disparage a group I’m a part of,” Marsh states. “I know not all of them agree with equality, and I respect their views even if I don’t agree with them.”
Instead, he wore a T-shirt stating “A Scout Is Equal” from the national organization Scouts for Equality. The group has almost two million signers to its petition opposing the LGBT ban in BSA, including more than 7,000 Eagle Scouts and former Scouts, and power players such as Bill Gates, George Takei, and former den mother Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted from her son’s Cub Scout Pack last year and started a Change.org petition that garnered 300,000 signatures.
Marsh knows many of his fellow Scouts aren’t happy about the changes coming in January and probably won’t welcome gay Scouts. He knows change comes slowly.
“I think it’s just that a lot of Scouts don’t know any gays. If they did, they would feel different,” he says. “I grew up in Montrose going to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church where a lot of the members are loving gay couples. It’s second nature to me.
“I believe in the Scouts, but I also believe in equality for all people. Riding in the parade was my way of saying I’m a Boy Scout and I’m for you guys having complete and total equality.”
Let’s hope Marsh is the future of not just the BSA but the country as well.
Visit scoutsforequality.com to join or sign the petition.
Marene Gustin also writes about Hotel Faust in this issue of OutSmart magazine.