Eagle Scouts return medals over organization’s anti-gay stance

The Boy Scouts of America's stance of not allowing openly gay people to serve as troop leaders or members has inspired several Eagle Scouts to return their hard-earned medals and renounce their membership.

Boing Boing writer Maggie Koerth-Baker first posted a story about how her husband, Christopher Baker, a former Eagle Scout, returned his medal to the Boy Scouts of America. The post, which included Baker's letter to the BSA, drew a strong reaction from the Boing Boing community. So much so, that other former Eagle Scouts began returning their medals as well.

This is no small sacrifice on the part of the Scouts. Becoming an Eagle Scout is serious business that involves years of hard work, at a time in a person's life when goofing off is often more of a priority. Check out the official checklist. In Baker's letter, he wrote, "Today I am returning my Eagle Scout medal because I do not want to be associated with the bigotry for which it now stands. I hope that one day BSA stands up for all boys. It saddens me that until that day comes any sons of mine will not participate in the Boy Scouts."

[Related: Scouts, parents mixed on gay-member policy]

Koerth-Baker said that the strong reaction wasn't much of a surprise. Over email she said, "I had seen, over the past week, individual letters having a huge impact on Facebook. But they weren't connected to one another. I wanted to do something that linked all these men and made their decisions something bigger than just individual choices."

She continued: "When I posted Baker's (her husband's) letter, I had hoped it would have the kind of impact that it seems to be having. I'm really gratified to know that this is something people connect with so strongly." It is perhaps worth noting that Baker is not gay, nor are any of the other men who have submitted their resignation letters to be posted on Boing Boing.

Koerth-Baker said she is continuing to get more letters from men who have resigned from the Eagle Scouts. "I actually have another half-dozen letters that I'm going to post later this week," she said. The men, she writes, are "doing something really honest, and really respectable, and really brave. And I wanted to support them. I wanted to show them that this wasn't something they were alone in ... lots of other men felt this way."

[Related: Sexual orientation isn't a factor in the qualities of a Boy Scout]

Earlier this month, spokesperson Deron Smith said that a committee of Scout executives and adult volunteers was unanimous in its decision to keep the anti-gay policy. The committee, Smith said, represented "a diversity of perspectives and opinions."

We reached out via email to the Boy Scouts of America for a comment. Spokesman Smith responded: "Scouting represents millions of youth and adult members in diverse communities across the nation, each with a variety of beliefs about this issue. While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society. Although we are disappointed to learn of anyone who feels compelled to return his Eagle rank, we fully understand and appreciate that not everyone will agree with any one position or policy."

Smith continued: "The BSA values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion. We expect all members to respect all other viewpoints and opinions....The BSA does not have an agenda on this matter, and its membership policy is not meant to be a blanket statement or a social commentary. The BSA is a voluntary, private organization that sets policies that are best for the organization. We welcome all who share its beliefs but do not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path."

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