All eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court — and they should be — as the nation’s highest court grapples with issues that address the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.
My eyes this morning, however, are on a different struggle at the grassroots level — and no less worthy.
I’m talking about the efforts to end the repugnant policy of the Boy Scouts of America that bans the children of gay and lesbian couples from membership and bans boys who are gay from scouting.
Imagine the conversation between a gay boy (or one unsure of his sexuality) and his parents about why he cannot be a Boy Scout or an Eagle Scout like his friends.
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Or the conversation between a straight boy who wants to join scouting but has gay parents.
Imagine the incomprehensible hurt.
How can anyone justify excluding these children?
“We are the symbol of American youth,” says Eagle Scout Gus Beaujardin, 33, who grew up in Palm Beach and now lives in West Kendall. “Wouldn’t it be sad if the Boy Scouts withered and died because of this issue?”
Scouting for most of his life, Beaujardin belongs to the Scout’s honor society and has received its highest award, the Order of the Arrow. He is also now an openly gay man. But instead of returning his award as so many others have to protest the discriminatory policy – and as he also initially wanted to do when he found out about it, Beaujardin has decided to work toward change through Scouts for Equality.
Both he and Scoutmaster James Happell, a 52-year-old University of Miami research professor from Palmetto Bay, launched this week petitions through Change.org.
“This issue became personal with me in the summer of 2012 when a young man who I had helped become an Eagle Scout and then an outstanding young assistant scoutmaster had his BSA membership revoked just because he’s bisexual,” says Happell, a Scout leader since 2000.
He and Beaujardin rightly believe that the Boy Scout’s anti-gay policy not only hurts scouting, but also “sends a dangerous message to young people.”
“We are telling our youth that it’s OK to discriminate,” Happell says.
“I love scouting. It helped me become a better leader. It made me the man I am today,” says Beujardin, who wasn’t aware of his sexual orientation or the ban while he was a young Scout but remembers when another boy was kicked out without an explanation. “Discrimination has no place in scouting.”
I hope Scout leaders open their hearts and follow the example of the Girl Scouts, who don’t subscribe to such policies. It is these cherished institutions that teach our children values and mold tomorrow’s leaders that prejudice and alienation must end, first and foremost.
Why wait until Supreme Court rulings or lawmakers design the change, as important as that might be, when we as a society can do better by simply doing the right thing?
Instead of promoting shame, the Boy Scouts should promote tolerance and inclusion.
In other words, they should live up to their Scout values.