The Boy Scouts of America, one of the largest youth private organizations in the country, is close to making a big change. According to MSNBC, the group’s leadership is considering ending the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders it decided to uphold just two years ago. This has been a contentious issue for the BSA, even reaching the Supreme Court in 2000.
A change in policy would mean that individual chapters would get to decide for themselves whether or not they will admit gay members. A spokesman for the BSA said, “The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.” The BSA’s leaders say this will then allow families to do what they feel is best for their children. The announcement regarding the change could come as early as next week.
Some say the change in the BSA’s attitude has to do with funding. About 50 local United Way chapters and numerous charities and businesses have said the Scouts’ policy violates their anti-discrimination policies and have since pulled funding. The Human Rights Campaign has made plans to downgrade the equality ratings of companies who support the BSA financially.
Even if funding isn’t the primary factor working against the ban, two CEOs who are on the national board have said they want to end the ban. Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T is next in line to be the organization’s president. Furthermore, local chapters have been urging the national board to reconsider the ban, based on their problems getting funding for their troops.
In the 2000 decision, the Supreme Court decided it was within the Boy Scouts’ First Amendment rights to ban gay members because homosexuality is considered outside of the Scout pledge to be “morally straight”. Because the Boy Scouts are a private organization, additional legal battles have made it difficult to get a ruling forcing them to grant entry to homosexual leaders and scouts but pressures from inside and outside the organization may soon change their stance.