Catchy, funny headline… I know,
The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from the Sea Scouts division of the Boy Scouts of America regarding the City of Berkeley’s decision to remove their tax-payer funded subsidy from the city’s boat docks.
The City of Berkeley made the decision in 1998 when they asked the Sea Scouts to either break away from the BSA or disavow its policy of excluding gay and atheist members and leaders. The Sea Scouts challenged the city and the case went all the way to the California Supreme Court. In turning down the request for an appeal, SCOTUS leaves standing the March 2006 California ruling stating that local governments are under no obligation to extend benefits to organizations which refuse to operate in coordination with local non-discrimination policies.
In 2000, SCOTUS ruled that the Boy Scouts of America, as a private organization (yeah right… tell that to all the taxpayers who continue to fund, in one way or another, the BSA and its activities), has the right to limit membership and leadership to standards of its own choosing.
The Boy Scouts, it seems, want it both ways: They want to have the right to be a private organization which can discriminate at will but they also want to be an organization which sucks off public funds. Sorry Charlie, but you can’t do that. You either have it one way or the other, not both.
Ever since I was kicked out of the Scouts in 2000 (because of my openness about my sexuality and establishment of the GSA at Reynolds), I’ve fought publicly, as well as privately and quietly, to create awareness about the BSA’s discriminatory membership policies. Although the policy definitely hasn’t changed, I think that small changes have taken place, especially here in North Carolina and in my former BSA governing body, the Old Hickory Council. The policies may still be on the books, but I’ll bet you anything that the people who work for the Old Hickory Council are a lot more aware of what damage they can do to its youth members, its leaders and even to its public image.
It is a fight I will soon not forget and in the future, there may be another time in which to publicly challenge the Old Hickory Council again. Until that time, I’ll continue to keep my eyes and ears on the BSA and what they are doing. I have a personal stake in this: I know exactly what it feels like to be shunned from an organization, from friends, from people who are more like family than anything else. I don’t want any boy to go through the same crap I had to go through as a member of the Scouts.
I don’t think the BSA understands exactly what they are doing to themselves, to their members and leaders and to their public image. America, however slow we may be, is changing and we are coming to realize that discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and immoral. I sincerely hope that the BSA will not be left behind in this realization.