Almost Time To Go Back to the Boy Scouts

Last week, I was a guest at the LGBT Connect day at Netroots Nation, meeting all kindsa people I've mostly encountered online. You know how these kinds of conferences go: glasses are hoisted, gossip is swapped, and you learn the story behind the story.

While there, I learned that the Boy Scouts are "reviewing" their anti-gay policy—a first step to rejecting it. You remember their policy, right? No atheists, no gays. They went to the Supreme Court in 2000 to defend that exclusion, winning the right to be wrong in a 5-4 decision penned by Rehnquist and joined by Kennedy. (Trivia: Boy Scouts of America v. Dale was argued on the LGBT side by Evan Wolfson, who then left Lambda Legal to found and run Freedom to Marry.)

But 12 years has gone by, and the social tide has turned. And so the Boy Scouts are starting to clear their throats publicly in the direction of change, in official discussions like this one with David Crary, social issues reporter at the AP (who, by the way, I rely on on Twitter—@CraryAP—for breaking news on gender/sexuality/family issues): 

NEW YORK (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America will review a resolution that would allow individual units to accept gays as adult leaders, but a spokesman says there's no expectation that the ban on gay leaders will in fact be lifted any time soon.

The resolution was submitted by a Scout leader from the Northeast in April and presented last week at the Scouts' national meeting in Orlando, Fla., according to BSA spokesman Deron Smith.

Smith said Wednesday it would be referred to a subcommittee, which will then make a recommendation to the national executive board. The process would likely be completed by May 2013, according to Smith, who said there were no plans at this time to change the policy.

Get that? Resolutions, subcommittees, review processes. The Boy Scouts are not bowing to the homos, no sir. But enough of them are embarrassed, and rightly so, by what their lagging policy is costing them in members and reputation. Individual members of the governing board are helping to tip the Scouts' hand, in statements like this one

A high-profile member of the Boy Scouts of America's governing board says he doesn't support the Scouts' policy of excluding gays and will work from within to seek a change.

Ernst & Young CEO James Turley, whose accounting firm has welcomed gays and lesbians in its own work force, becomes the first member of the Scouts' Executive Board known to publicly disapprove of the policy.

"I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning and service, however the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse," Turley said in a statement released by his company.

Part of the embarrassment, as you've probably heard, comes from the ousting of Jennifer Tyrrell, the stay-at-home mom who was told she couldn't be a Cub Scout den mother any more because she is lesbian—an incident that launched a petition and all kinda nasty publicity. It's also come from Zach Wahls—the young man who testified in front of the Iowa legislature about growing up with two mothers, whom you might remember from the YouTube video that went viral. Wahls was an Eagle Scout, and has made changing the policy one of his personal missions, he told me at Netroots. He helped deliver the petitions and has had discussions with folks throughout Scouting, which he talks a bit about here.

True fact: I briefly shared a hotel room with Zach, or rather his luggage, at Netroots, after a mix-up in room assignments. When I walked in, surprised to find him in my hotel room, he told me who he was. I gave him a huge hug and thanked him for that moving testimony. He endured my hug nicely, like the well-mannered and obviously ambitious young man that he is. Watch for him in politics in the coming years.

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