Written by Emily Mullins
Just days before the Boy Scouts of America vote on a policy that would allow membership of LGBT youth but continue to exclude LGBT leaders, the BSA’s Connecticut Yankee Council publically announced its acceptance of all youth and adults, regardless of sexual orientation. UCC advocates and other scouting-equality supporters see this as a bold move, and hope the 1,400 members of the BSA National Council are inspired to follow suit when they vote on the policy at the organization’s annual meeting Thursday.
"This is an indication of the strong support that exists within the Boy Scouts for ending discrimination, and I hope it is indicative of how delegates will vote this week,” said the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, the UCC’s executive for LGBT concerns. "Thousands of scouts, no matter their sexual orientation, are depending on it.”
Schuenemeyer and other LGBT supporters will travel this week to the BSA’s annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, to be present for the vote.
The Connecticut Yankee Council represents nearly 17,000 youth and about 4,600 volunteers in 37 communities in southwestern Connecticut. The Council is supported by 520 chartering organizations and more than 5,000 annual donors. In a statement, the Council said it respects other's viewpoints and is welcoming of others, and is committed to its mission of providing high-quality programs that deliver leadership skills, citizenship training, character development and personal fitness to young people.
"Scouting in the Connecticut Yankee Council is open to all youth and adults who subscribe to the values of the Scout Oath and Law, regardless of their personal sexual orientation,” said Michael Abrahamson, council president. "Our scouts and leaders repeatedly pledge to respect all people and defend the rights of others. Prejudice, intolerance and unlawful discrimination of any form are unacceptable within our membership.”
The BSA initiated a ban on gay scouts and leaders in 1978, and has reaffirmed it multiple times, most recently last summer. In January, the organization said it was considering a proposal that would let local religious and civic groups that sponsor scout units choose whether to allow gay members and leaders, but in February postponed the vote to gather more information. After collecting feedback from 200,000 members, the BSA introduced a revised policy last month that would allow membership of LGBT youth, but continue to exclude gay leaders. While a step in the right direction, UCC LGBT advocates say the new policy being considered by the BSA contradicts the organization's efforts to become more inclusive.
"The Connecticut Yankee Council has taken a courageous move in favor of equality for scouts and adult leaders," said Rich Ferraro, GLADD vice president of communications. "By allowing any qualified youth and adult to participate, regardless of sexual orientation, the Council is demonstrating that fairness is more important than fear. We hope that the Boy Scouts of America will follow their lead and listen to a majority of Americans who believe scouting should be open to all."