By Kira Zalan |
The Boy Scouts of America's explicit policy of discrimination against gay people hurts youth and families. And the policy update they proposed last week is abysmal. To propose a policy that allows for gay youth, but excludes gay adults, exposes a colossal magnitude of cowardice, hypocrisy and narrow-minded bigotry on the part of the BSA. While I haven't given up hope, I am deeply disappointed.
I learned in the woods, wearing my Scout uniform, that adapting to the world was pivotal to my survival. I earned the rank of Eagle Scout from the isolating closet of a gay teenager. Based on my experience, I know that the most extraordinary thing Scouting develops in young people is leadership.
In a world that has experienced a landslide shift towards embracing gay people as equals, this policy of exclusion is in terrible conflict with the values of the times. Effective leaders in this century embrace diversity; they don't discriminate.
The BSA's proposed policy change, which would continue excluding gay adults from Scouting, sends confusing messages to young people. It would encourage and model discrimination for them. In California, that is completely out of step with our values of nondiscrimination. We don't discriminate in housing, employment, public accommodation, education or even in the benefit policies of the state's contractors.
Therefore, to address this misalignment, we are sponsoring the Youth Equality Act. This legislation would eliminate special California state tax deductions from any youth organization that discriminates, including the Boy Scouts. It is just another example of how the world is changing and Scouting has fallen behind.
I love the Boy Scouts and am deeply grateful for how the organization taught me to be a leader. Change can be hard and there is room for forgiveness in the world. The LGBT movement has seen some of our staunchest allies courageously switch their position to embrace equality and they are met with gratitude.
There is still time for the Boy Scouts to demonstrate bravery and transform to become a truly inclusive organization. There are even exemplary peer organizations like the Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs and 4H that could serve as models. Oh yeah, and the United States military.
Come on, BSA. Adapting to the world may be pivotal to your survival, after all.
About John O'Connor Executive Director of Equality California
Rob Schwarzwalder Senior Vice President of the Family Research Council
Ricardo Lara State Senator from California