This post was first published on the Huffington Post’s Gay Voices blog.
The Boy Scouts of America would like you to think that they’ve changed. Armed with a curiously timed new policy proposal that would allow gay kids to become Scouts, it would appear that the BSA has finally caught a ride on the tidal wave of public opinion. Who would have thought that the very organization that just one-year ago codified homophobia in its policy would evolve so quickly? There may not be an Electoral College for public opinion, but don’t insult our intelligence. The Scouts have not had some kind of homosexual epiphany; the only reason they are having this public conversation is because of the monumental pressure that has rained down on them like an unrelenting avalanche.
The BSA states that, before coming to its decision, it embarked on the most comprehensive listening exercise in its history. They apparently didn’t listen to new data from The Williams Institute indicating that there are six million — that’s right, six million — Americans with at least one LGBT parent. Do you think any of these parents — myself included — would consider sending our children to the Boy Scouts while they continue to discriminate against the families that raise these young men? Not a chance. This decision is not about the kids, it is a calculated public relations move, an attempt to placate the hatemongers, bigots, homophobes, and progressives at one fell swoop. And it is not good enough. The subtext of the BSA policy proposal — we don’t trust gay men around our kids — is more damning than any doors it may hope to open.
If we have learned anything from the failed Senate vote on background checks for firearms, it is that money continues to play a greater influence in decision making than common sense and fairness. Organizations like Scouts for Equality, led by Zach Wahls, the venerable Eagle Scout with two moms, have successfully railed former Scouts, influenced public discourse and pressured corporate America to take their tax-deductible donations elsewhere. States like California have proposed stripping the BSA — and any organization that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation — of its tax-exempt status. This strategy is working — which is precisely why now is the time to keep the pressure on.
This indecent BSA proposal brings to mind other great half-measures in mock American history: when President Truman integrated black boys into the military, just not black men; when Eisenhower sent the national guard to escort those Little Rock 4.5 to high school; and when young girls were allowed to vote, but not their mothers. Progress may not be as immediate as we’d like, but when the moment is finally here — and make no mistake, it is here — it is incumbent upon us to be up to the task. President Obama, who also happens to be honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America, should understand this better than anyone. Nobody offered Rosa Parks a seat in the middle of the bus — and she certainly wouldn’t have accepted it.
History has a compelling name for partial equality: DISCRIMINATION. The Boy Scouts have rolled out an Extreme Makeover: Homo Edition, but even this crafty remodel cannot hide the fact that their house is still made of cards. Discrimination has no place in the BSA.