Friday, February 15, 2008

Morally Clean and Straight? The Boy Scouts and Discrimination

David Knapp, now 81, was expelled from the Boy Scouts after a lifetime of scouting and service when the organization “discovered” he was gay.

In the late 1990’s, lawsuits all over the country challenged the Boy Scouts’ discrimination against gay men and youth.

Boy Scouts of America v. Wyman in Connecticut was one of the successful suits, in which the Scouts were barred from a state employee fund-raising campaign because their anti-gay policy violates Connecticut's non-discrimination law.

David Knapp and GLAD attorney Jennifer Levi tell the story of Boy Scouts and discrimination in our podcast, Morally Clean and Straight: Boy Scouts of America v. Wyman.

Tell us your story:

Were you a Boy Scout? Were your children? Share your thoughts on the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy.


Anonymous said...

I find the Boy Scouts a joke and totally out of step. I was the post founders and leader for one of the largest Explorer Posts in the nation back in the early 90's having almost 600 members. The kids and parents were wonderful we all had a great time doing our events and meetings. All was well until someone at the main office got wind that I might be a cross-dresser (actually, when I was confronted I said that I was a Transsexual). The powers that be found out even though no parents or children knew they forced my departure and the disbandment of the troop. Today as a woman, I work driving a school bus as well as teach classes at the local parks dept. teaching kids bicycle repairs without and issues. The Boy Scouts need to enter the 21 Century we do not live in a draconian age.

Anonymous said...

I was a scout in the early 1950s before sexual orientation had become an issue for me personally or for scouting. Initially I loved it, then we changed scoutmasters. The new one was a pedophile who targeted and exploited at least 2 of us (boys who were more feminine). Odds are that he was heterosexual. His pedophile career continued for about 25 years more, then I read in the Boston Globe that he had finally been busted. Pedophilia MUST be confronted in the scouts and elsewhere, but anti-LGBT policies are not the way to do it.

Anonymous said...

In 1998 I transitioned to female. Prior to 1998, I was a Cubmaster and Assistant Scout Master, with awards. As the result of my transition, the BSA, National Capitol Area Counsel, refused to allow me to continue... they also sabotaged my son's chances of earning his Eagle. The heightened level of bigotry, prejudice and bias expressed by the leadership of NCAC and the Troop was disgusting. It is only fitting that the only organization chartered by Congress be rebuked and prohibited from obtaining public funds and use of public facilities.

Jim Major said...

I was a scout back in the 1980's, earning my Eagle in 1984 and becoming a Vigil member of OA in 1987. I had always loved scouting, it taught me a great deal about the outdoors and about myself. After graduating college and realizing I was gay I began working at a college in Northern VT. One of the Deans learned that I had an extensive scouting background and asked if I would want to help out with the local troop as an assistant scoutmaster. This I did, knowing Scoutings policies regarding homosexuals. I always followed scoutings rules of "2 deep leadership" (basically a rule that prohibits any 1 on 1 interaction between adults and youths). All was well for 3 years and I was making a worthwhile contribution. I felt I was giving something back to an organization that gave me so much.
One day I went to the local planned parenthood for an HIV test. The doctor who gave me my test was a very nice woman and I opened up to her as to why I felt I should be tested.
At our troops next parents night, who should show up but the Doctor and when she saw me I saw a suprised concerned look on her face. She was the mother of one of newer scouts.
That night I decided I needed to end my association with the BSA forever (or until their posture changed). I left because I wanted it to be my decision and not theirs and I did not want to be on some national blackball list.

Anonymous said...

I got my Eagle in May of 2003. I have to say the scouts was one of the best experiences of my life. I would not be who I am today without the experiences and leadership training I received through scouts. I feel that the organization is utterly misguided in restricting gay people from participating. Despite that, I do not support the various suits against them. I won't take that experience away from some other kid - even if someone else is.

I also have to laugh at the irony - I now volunteer extensively for gay rights causes and many of the skills I make the most use of, I learned through scouts.

Anonymous said...

I find the Boy Scouts anti-gay policies abhorrent and was totally in support of boycotting them, until...
I fell in love with a woman raising her troubled daughter's kids, one of them a boy. In the rural area where we live there aren't many positive role models for the boy. Scouts is one of the few wholesome places were he can be around men and boys (he as two sisters and his lesbian grandmothers at home!). The scouting program helps him learn to think beyond himself and his immediate pleasure in a world dominated by "me first" messages. The only immediate pleasures available where we live are sex and drugs. Scouting is one of the few counter forces to teen pregnancy and drug addiction!
When he graduated from Cub Scouts and had to start learning the Boy Scout oath and its meaning, I taught him that his grandmother and I were "morally straight" because being lesbian is natural to us. I told him that most straight people don't understand this, and think that because being heterosexual is natural to them, it's natural to everyone. I warned him that the boy scouts do not interpret the oath the way I do, and that they discriminate against us. But I told him he could make that oath in good faith if HE understood it to mean that each person is true to their own nature.
But I now face a dilemma. We plan to travel extensively and he will not be able to participate in a regular troop. There is a "lone scouting" program, but he will need a "counselor". This is "usually" the parent or guardian, so I must choose: do I "don't ask, don't tell" or do I try to find someone else to act as his counselor or do I let his dream of being an Eagle Scout die?

Anonymous said...

I was a scout in the early 60's and my Dad was a scout leader. It was a great experience. I made good friends and learned a lot about self reliance, living in harmony with nature, and useful skills. The rituals borrowed from native american culture were rich and important for boys at that age. I also learned a lot about sex from other boys and it was very reassuring. I could tell there were other boys who were probably gay, as I was, and that was comforting, though it's a shame we never talked about it. More adults involved in scouting are becoming aware that some of their friends are gay, and some of their children as well, so it's important to keep coming out to our friends so pressure will be brought to bear on the the "leadership" so they will realize we pose no threat. I'm sure there have been gay men involved in scouting all along.

Anonymous said...

Boy Scouts. Sight of a uniform can still terrify me and I was one. Star Scout. But somehow they still knew I was a fag- I didn't even know I was a fag back then but they figured it out. Funny how you can be a part of a pack and yet feel so totally isolated and alone. Homophobia was encouraged- there was never a thought given to the idea that one might be in their midst- and if there was for sure the best thing to do was drive it out. The only thing worse then being chosen last for a team is not being chosen at all. But
there is a happy ending. I survived and thrived once I reached my twenties and beyond and learned not only to accept being an out gay man but to embrace that identity and find my own pack to belong to.
Sadly I think the Boy Scouts are missing out on the opportunity to create an atmsophere where boys and young men could be taught the powere of affectionate bonds and the true meaning of love apart from sex. Maybe if men could be taught to love each other they wouldn't have to kill each other so much. At best the Boy Scouts are an anachronism that deserves to pass into the anals of history at worst they continue to be a breeding ground for intolerance and homophobia. I think they do not live up to their motto "I will do my duty to do my best"

Anonymous said...

I know that this post might be dated but here's the problem -- The Boy Scouts do not allow (and here's the KEY WORDS HERE) OPENLY GAY people to participate in the program and that's the problem in a nutshell. Gays have this tendency of telling everyone that they are gay.

Example: You meet someone and they say, "Hi, I'm John and I'm gay." I don't announce my orientation so why must you?

Just keep it to yourself and you will be fine. If you look at the Dale case, Dale was not only gay, but he was an ACTIVIST so can you blame anyone for raising eyebrows?

There is no need to tell everyone what you are, so try to be fair here. When you speak ill of the Boy Scouts, you do more damage to them than they have done to you. The kids are hurt and have nothing to do with policy. Just think about that.