Boy Scouts Reportedly Ready to Stop Excluding Gay Kids
“They taught me about equality, the Boy Scouts,” James Dale said last year in an interview with the Star-Ledger, the newspaper in his original home state of New Jersey. “They’re not practicing what they preach.”
Dale knows that from experience.
By all accounts, he loved being a Boy Scout when he was a kid – all the activities and all the good things he thought the organization stood for.
But a teenager, Dale got kicked out of the Boy Scouts – not for something he did, but because of something that’s a part of who he is.
James Dale happens to be gay.
And when the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America found that out, they decided that he could not be a Boy Scout anymore.
“It was like a kidney punch,” he told Star-Ledger reporter Victoria Saint Martin.
Dale took the Boy Scouts to court.
But he lost.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts had a constitutional right to exclude gay kids.
(There’s nothing in the Constitution that specifically prohibits discrimination against gay people. So a lot of people think it’s okay to discriminate against them.)
In other challenges, the courts ruled that as a private group, the Scouts have a right to decide who can join and who can’t.
And just last year, the group re-affirmed its ban on gay kids and gay scout leaders – even parents who happen to be gay.
In other words, the message was, “If you’re gay, stay away.”
“I think that’s a horribly destructive message,” Dale told the Star-Ledger.
Now, though, all that might be on the verge of changing.
At a meeting next week, the national leaders of Boy Scouts are reportedly expected to consider a new policy – a policy that lets each local troop decide whether to allow gay kids in or not.
“There would no longer be any national policy,” Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said, according to the Associated Press. “The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”
In other words, troops that want to keep on excluding gay kids would still be allowed to do that.
But for the first time, other troops would be free to let gay kids join – and not be forced to kick them out for being honest about whom they are.
Why the change?
For one thing, the Scouts have reportedly lost a significant amount of financial support in recent years.
A number of large companies have non-discrimination policies.
And those companies say they will no longer give the Scouts money, because the Scouts don’t have the same policy.
In addition, two powerful businessmen who are on the Boy Scouts’ national board – men who oppose the exclusionary policy — have reportedly been pressuring the Scouts from within.
There’s no guarantee the policy will actually change.
But for kids like James Dale, there’s now a glimmer of hope – hope that they’ll finally be allowed to be Boy Scouts, too.