In Philadelphia, the Boy Scouts of America‘s anti-gay policies have been a major sticking point. Not only has the scout’s refusal to accept gay members and leaders divided the city, but it became a catalyst for a nasty court battle over city property, one that the City of Philadelphia inevitably lost.
Today, the Scouts still reside on city property. The fees have still not been settled. And city officials don’t seem any closer to finding a common ground.
But this week, it was announced that the Boy Scouts of America may have a change of heart. Though unlikely, the group is considering allowing gay scouts and scout leaders to serve in the organization. This comes after Zach Wahls, an activist whose video went viral when he stood up for his lesbian mothers and marriage equality in Iowa, shared a petition with more than 275,000 signatures. Zahls, an Eagle Scout, was inspired to start the petition after another lesbian mom – Jennifer Tyrrell – was fired as den leader a few weeks ago.
In addition to Wahls’ petition, as many as 300,000 supporters have also signed Tyrrell’s Change.org petition asking that she be reinstated and that the scouts rethink policies when it comes to LGBT parents and children.
“As both an Eagle Scout with a personal investment in the success of the Boy Scouts of America and as the son of a lesbian couple, it means a lot to see this change finally set in motion,” says Wahls.
If the resolution passes, openly gay scouts and leaders could be free to serve as early as next year. But according to Boy Scouts spokesperson Deron Smith, who told MSNBC, “While we’ll carefully consider this resolution, there are no plans to change this policy.” Resolutions like this one have come and gone during the past decade – and usually justice falls on the side of the scouts. In 2000, the Supreme Court sided with Boy Scouts of America against a gay scoutmaster. The same happened in Philly when it was determined that the city could not evict the local chapter from city property, even though the scouts’ policy of discrimination does not agree with the City of Philadelphia’s own non-discrimination policies.
Do we expect the scouts to change its longtime policy banning gay people? No. But the fact that the resolution is even up for debate offers hope that one day the scouts and other groups like it will realize that by barring someone based on sexual orientation is no different than refusing someone based on the color of his skin or the religious beliefs she holds.
What do you think? Will the Boy Scouts of America rethink its anti-gay policy as soon as this year?