Tuesday, the Boy Scouts of America reignited the ongoing debate over gay rights.
According to a June 7 press release from the national organization, in April of this year a "single individual" submitted a resolution asking the Boy Scouts to reconsider its policy against granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals. Tuesday, an 11-member panel reaffirmed the national organization's committment to its existing policy.
The BSA's official policy is as follows:
“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.
Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics.
The BSA is a voluntary, private organization that sets policies that are best for the organization. The BSA welcomes all who share its beliefs but does not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path."
If approved, the resolution would have changed the policy to allow local units to determine their own standards. This is more or less the same approach used by the Twin Cities' regional chapter, the Northern Star Council. According to Marketing and Communications Director Kent York, the Northern Star Council has hewed to a hands-off method since 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that found the dismissal of a gay Scout leader to be illegal under the state's anti-discrimination law.
Northern Star's policy leaves much up to interpretation.
"We don't make those choices. As an organization (the Northern Star Council) trusts the parents and chartering organizations to select the leadership. We don't ask (about sexual orientation) on your application," York explained. "We trust them to do that unless the leader's actions call their position into question."
Chartering organizations included in the council's constituency fall all over the spectrum, York said. Northern Star includes churches and service clubs that view homosexuality as a sin and others which strongly endorse gay rights. Thus, York said, the den in your neighborhood is likely to be consistent with your beliefs.
In other parts of the country, openly gay den leaders have been removed from their posts. York stressed that the Northern Star would take steps to remove a leader only if their conduct became questionable.
"The national statement doesn't affect us locally. Their are kids in our program who have two moms and two dads and we're not going to do anything that would exclude or ostracize them," York said. "National pronouncements make big headlines, but it's your service club or church that makes the decision."