OK to be Gay in Alameda Boy Scouts?

What would happen if the young, gay scout, whose Eagle Award project was rejected recently by a troop leader in Moraga, were an Alameda scout?


The news broke late last week that an openly gay Moraga boy was denied his Eagle Scout Award. I spent a good deal of time reading the comments on this Lamorinda Patch article as well as on other news sites, both regional and national.

Some commenters said things like, "What would you expect? This is an organization that does not allow gay leaders or openly gay scouts." (In 2000, the United States Supreme Court ruled that, as a private organization, and despite anti-discrimination laws, the Boy Scouts of America could exclude gay people based on the first amendment right of free association.) 

Others pointed out that the Boy Scout in question did not identify as gay through the bulk of his scouting career (he joined scouting at the age of 6), and so of course he wanted to continue what he started, continue to be a part of a community that he'd grown up in. As one commenter wrote, "He has worked toward this award MOST of his life, has been part of this group for MOST of his life. What have most adults put that much time and effort into achieving personally? Medical school, a Ph.D?"

While I was out and about in Alameda this weekend, during a Friday afternoon happy hour, on the soccer sidelines Saturday, and at a neighborhood block party, I asked parents about their choices to have—or not have—their sons participate in scouting. (According to the local council, Alameda has 31 units or troops, both Cub and Boy Scouts, and 826 active scouts.)

Many parents I spoke to were very clear: my son is not a scout because of the organization's policies toward gay people. Others have made a different choice. "Better to change it from within," they told me. "Alameda's scout troops are different" and "we're not like that in Alameda." 

I am sure there are also Alameda parents who choose scouting for their children because they endorse the anti-gay policies of the organization.

In doing some reading, I was surprised to learn about religious involvement in scouting. In 2003 the New York Times article reported that the Mormon church chartered 26,000 scout troops (the Catholic church was the second biggest charterer at that time, with 17,000 affiliated troops). I don't know how many Alameda troops are church-sponsored.

Apparently the anti-gay policy is controversial within the organzation. Last summer, the Boy Scouts reaffirmed the policy on gay participation, with a closed-door, special committee that bypassed the full board. At least two board members openly opposed the decision.

I'm curious as to how a similiar situation would be handled here in Alameda—if an openly gay young man were to try to become an Eagle Scout. I called over to Alameda Scout Council's Charles Howard-Gibbon to ask.

Howard-Gibbon declined to comment in a form email, saying the situation in Moraga is not relevant to Alameda scouts. "We wish we could be more helpful, but there isn’t a local connection, and none of us in the Alameda Council have any greater level of knowledge."

I'm left wondering, is scouting less bigoted and more inclusive in Alameda? Or does your family choose scouting because of their policies related to gay people? Or do you participate for all the positives of the program, and hold your nose at the national agenda and hope that it's different here?

Ann W. October 13, 2012 at 12:57 AM
I second that!!! You've done a great job with your provocative question getting people to think and have a dialogue.
Alameda Mom October 14, 2012 at 07:08 PM
By boycotting Boy Scouts, I am leaving millions (if not billions) of resources including property and curriculum for the bigots. They can't have it. My son is going to come and benefit from the curriculum and resources and we will have regular conversations at home about how this policy is wrong and our family doesn't agree with it. It may come to a head one day. Who knows? My son may be gay or one of his friends. If that happens we will make that descion when we come to it.I'd rather lean into the discomfort. They will have to publically kick us out like the boy in Moraga. The more people who are willing to do that the more likely the organization is to change. I think the National Council purposely has the policy to get rid of people like my family and keep it for themselves. Scouting was traditionally for bringing people with different background together and build skills for competence. I feel like I'm holding scouting to that standard.
bette page October 18, 2012 at 03:22 PM
LOS ANGELES — The thousands of men expelled from the Boy Scouts of America between 1970 and 1991 on suspicion of molesting children came from all walks of life — teachers and plumbers, doctors and bus drivers, politicians and policemen. They ranged in age from teens to senior citizens and came from troops in every state, according to a trove of dossiers due for public release Thursday. While 1,900 previously confidential files suggest no single predator profile, scrutiny of the files reveals a pattern: Many suspected molesters engaged in what psychologists today call “grooming behavior,” a gradual seduction in which predators lavish children with attention, favors and gifts. In hundreds of cases, Scout leaders allowed the boys to drive cars, drink alcohol or look at pornography. They gradually tested physical boundaries during skinny dipping, group showers, sleepovers and one-on-one activities. Hundreds of files from the 1960s to the 1980s are set to be released Thursday by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, giving the public its first broad view of the documents. The dossiers viewed in advance by the Los Angeles Times include biographical data, legal records, Scouting correspondence, boys’ accounts of alleged abuse and media reports and represent all the surviving files kept by the Scouts as of January 2005. The Scouts have destroyed an unknown number of files over the years.
Rev. Laura Rose October 18, 2012 at 09:07 PM
There is a conversation beginning about starting an inclusive Cub and Older boy Scouting Group. I have been doing some research and there is an inclusive scouting group that began in England and now has troops here in the U.S. There is no troop in our area but there are a few in CA. Check out the web site: at http://bpsa-us.org/ We are also looking into Campfire Boys and Girls. If you have interest in being part of this discussion about starting an alternative scouting program that is inclusive, please email me at revlaura@fccalameda.org
Rev. Laura Rose October 18, 2012 at 09:09 PM
The name of the organization is the Baden-Powell Service Organization http://bpsa-us.org/


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