COMMENTARY | Few people were happy in 2013 when the Boy Scouts of America decided to lift its ban on homosexuality…only for youth. As of January 1, 2014, youth members of Scouting could be gay, participating up to age 18 in Boy Scouting and up to age 21 in Venturing, but adult volunteers who were homosexual would still be banned. This infuriated LGBTQ supporters and did not make conservatives happy either. I was but one of many Eagle Scouts disappointed with the BSA’s foolish and awkward refusal to extend equal membership to all homosexuals, youth and adult.
Now, a new challenge to the BSA’s continued discrimination against gay adults looms. According to NBC, a 19-year-old Eagle Scout has been denied continued employment at an Arizona scout camp this summer, allegedly due to Facebook posts and comments mentioning his status as a homosexual after he changed his relationship status to “in a relationship.” Unlike other cases of BSA-approved discrimination against homosexuals, the young man did not openly acknowledge his status as a homosexual to the BSA. This raises the question of how the BSA will determine who is a homosexual and, therefore, unable to hold membership as an adult?
Previously, men who were forced out of the BSA for homosexuality were open about their status as gay men. But what happens when one makes no public disclosure? Will the BSA use “don’t ask, don’t tell,” like the U.S. military once did? Can someone be expelled from Scouting over rumors, or must they openly confirm their sexual orientation?
This raises many thorny issues, with critics already accusing the BSA of engaging in “witch hunts” to find and drive out adult homosexuals. Can the BSA deny membership to anyone who does not openly admit to being gay? If so, anyone risks being kicked out of Scouting over mere rumor. It’s like McCarthyism in khaki and green. And who gets to decide who is gay? District executives? Camp directors?
The BSA is wrong for continuing to discriminate against adult homosexuals, but arbitrariness within the discrimination makes it worse still and opens up the organization for countless lawsuits. As a proponent of Scouting, I cringe at the organization’s clumsiness and hope that legal action does not tear it apart. It has much to offer America’s youth. For now, however, it is operating as a textbook case of how not to do things.