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The Boy Scouts of America, one of the largest kids' organizations in the U.S., has a 100-year-plus track record of helping boys become responsible, moral, active and community-minded citizens. That's what I want my four boys to grow up to be.
But I could never bend my head around the fact that a group that is so dedicated to developing young boys could be so exclusionary in its membership. That a group who is teaching boys about friendship, teamwork, and values could ever draw a line in the sand and say that only certain boys belong, but not all boys. That the Boy Scouts of America could actually have a rule written into their bylaws that stated that gay members and volunteers were prohibited.
For me, who wants to raise my sons to accept individuals of all races, cultures, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation…this was a deal breaker. As it was for iVoice Samantha Fein, a gay parent whose own son desperately wanted to join the local scout troop.
My daughters however, were allowed to join the Girl Scouts, a group that has made inclusion a core value. When a transgender boy asked to join a Girl Scout troop in Colorado in 2011, the Girl Scouts of Colorado responded with:
"Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization...If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout."
So while I am encouraged that the Boy Scout national bylaws may be re-written when the national executive board convenes next week for their annual meeting, I am still concerned that this will only be a guideline. Local scout troops will still have the right to include or exclude gay kids and adults as they see fit. While eliminating the ban is a step in the right direction, I would prefer to see the bylaws be changed to prohibit local groups from excluding any member or volunteer based on race, culture, religious belief, or sexual orientation.
Only when that happens, will I willingly sign up one of my boys for scouting. In the meantime, I will make do with the 437 other activities that are on our family calendar instead!