In an emblematic victory for clear thinking and common decency, the Boy Scouts of America yesterday voted an end to their long-running policy that denied membership to openly gay youth. Meeting in suburban Dallas, the 1,400 members of the group's national council enacted new standards, including this statement:
No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.
The standards -- described by BSA chief executive Wayne Brock as "caring, compassionate and kind" -- still ban openly gay adults in leadership positions and proscribe "any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age" as "contrary to the virtues of Scouting."
The vote came after months of debate in local scout districts and despite a national campaign by Christian Right homophobes. The Bible-thumpers accused BSA leaders of caving to pressure from big business interests in thrall to "popular culture."
As Florida Family Policy Council leader John Stemberger put it, the BSA national board:
...has been infiltrated by wealthy, pro-gay corporate CEOs who haven't been properly screened to ensure commitment to core BSA values. The board has caved to blackmail by corporations threatening to pull money and support.
In a statement that only revealed how delusional he is, Stemberger warned that:
The biggest problem will be a wave of boy-on-boy sexual activity on campouts and other overnight trips. Claiming to be "gay" and questioning your gender has become so popular in public schools that kids are "becoming gay" and acting out because it's hip and edgy. Ask any middle-school teacher.
The American Family Association also opposed the enlightened policy, and delivered a quarter of a million petitions to BSA national headquarters this week. In a press release, AFA President Tim Wildmon said:
The leadership of the Boy Scouts of America has failed the young men it represents. AFA decries the decision today and is deeply saddened that Randall Stephenson, CEO of ATT and executive board member of the Boy Scouts of America, and other members of the BSA board, have overthrown the time-honored values of this century-old organization....It is a sad day for America.
Wildmon and other snake-handlers prophesied a mass exodus of the faithful should the wall of bigotry crumble. Now Stemberger's planning to lead the march from gayified perdition.
In a press release yesterday Stemberger announced a June meeting in Louisville KY in which "like-minded organizations, parents and BSA members...will discuss the creation of a new character development organization for boys" lead by those "who wish to return to truly timeless values that once made the BSA great."
We're tempted to say "good riddance to bad rubbish." But the thought of Stemberger's flock off in the woods instructing their kids in ignorance and fear is repellent, and potentially dangerous. Godwin's Law notwithstanding, brown-garbed youth filled with loathing for others on the basis of sexual preference has awful precedent.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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