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Zach Wahls Calls Boy Scouts Delayed Decision on Gay Ban an ‘Abdication of Responsibility’


David Elwood of Troop 339 shows his Lego robot to James Lorsong of Troop 361.

CREDIT: Flickr/Fort Meade

The Boy Scouts of America announced today it will delay making a decision on its policy banning gay members.

The executive board announced in a statement that "after careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy." 

The Boy Scouts stated the board will “further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns” before the National Council’s 1,400 voting members assemble at the annual national meeting in May.

Zach Wahls, LGBT advocate and founder of Scouts for Equality, told Campus Progress the Boy Scouts' announcement to delay the policy decision indicates they aren't taking discrimination seriously.

"This is an abdication of responsibility. By postponing this decision, the BSA has caved to those who argue that their ideas about being gay trump basic Scouting values of kindness, courtesy and bravery. Scouting was built on a foundation of respect and dignity. Today, the BSA cracked that foundation," he said.

The organization announced last week that it would vote on changing the policy after a seven-month, national campaign by Scouts for Equality and overwhelming public outcry. Scout leaders invited the public to share their input last week, but overwhelmed with responses, they soon urged people to stop calling.

Republican leaders like Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) and former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum also joined the outcry, predicting a mass exodus if the Boy Scouts voted to allow gay members.

Many advocates of equality don't believe the proposed change, now tabled until May, promotes enough tolerance. Wahls said the proposal would be a solid step in the right direction but it still signifies a long road ahead to reach true equality within the organization.

“Essentially, what this policy change does is allow local units to discriminate instead of requiring them to discriminate,” he told Campus Progress. 

Wahls remains optimistic though and believes it is in the interest of the Boy Scouts National Executive Board to change the policy.

“I'd be shocked if most councils didn't move in a more inclusive direction,” he said, based on the idea that discriminatory policies hurt local units' recruiting and fundraising efforts. “Membership has been going downhill for a while, and it seems pretty directly tied to this policy. Speaking as an Eagle Scout, I very much hope that this move helps rekindle BSA membership in inclusive units. I don't believe it's too late, but frankly, it's hard to say at this stage in the game.”

Anya Callahan is a reporter for Generation Progress. Follow her on Twitter @LezAnya.

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