By Kira Zalan |
As one of the foremost public charities and youth organizations in the nation, the Boy Scouts of America should embrace an inclusive policy at all levels of the organization that serves youth, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation.
The Boy Scouts' ban is especially damaging because it harms our most vulnerable youth. The evidence is clear; eight out of every ten lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students in California reports being harassed in school because of their sexual orientation. LGBT youth are also four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts.
As much as the Boy Scouts are inspiring the leaders of tomorrow, the organization should be teaching that leaders do not discriminate. Leaders embrace diversity. Scout law teaches these young leaders to offer "his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respect them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own." This should include accepting people for who they are.
Passage of the FAIR Education Act in California and the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' on a national level demonstrate that our nation is moving away from exclusion. If the military has demonstrated its ability to stop excluding potential service members on the basis of sexual orientation, certainly the Boy Scouts and other youth organizations can follow suit.
While I am hopeful that the Boy Scouts are considering an end to their harmful ban for youth, this falls disappointingly short of a truly inclusive policy. The Boy Scouts' proposed resolution would simultaneously permit a gay boy to participate and benefit from scouting yet deny him the opportunity to give back and serve as a scout leader. Regrettably, the only rationale I can gather from the exclusion of LGBT adults is an underlying fear of homosexuality and pedophilia. If this is indeed the underlying premise, it is unfounded and ignorant.
Lastly, I do, in fact, respect the right of a private organization to determine its membership. However, the law is clear: California does not permit discrimination and we should not be using taxpayer dollars, paid by all taxpayers including LGBT members, to reward it.
This is precisely why I have authored Senate Bill 323, the Youth Equality Act. We want to ensure nonprofit youth organizations that receive special state tax privileges comply with California's nondiscrimination laws now and in the future. If the scouts will not lead by example, the state will.
It is time for the Boy Scouts of America to understand that its antiquated policies are emblematic of a world that no longer exists and only perpetuates artificial differences that continue to divide us.
SB 323 is sponsored by Equality California. The bill passed the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance and is set for hearing in the Senate Committee on Appropriations on April 29, 2013.
About Ricardo Lara State Senator from California
Rob Schwarzwalder Senior Vice President of the Family Research Council