President Barack Obama, in a pre-Super Bowl interview Sunday on CBS, called upon the Boy Scouts of America to reverse a long-standing policy disallowing gays in the organization. The president joined a handful of other politicians across the nation who agreed it was time to end the discriminatory practice in the 113-year-old organization for boys and men.
What did Obama say regarding the Boy Scouts' decision?
Obama told CBS, "The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives... . And I think nobody should be barred from that."
How exactly will the organization reverse its ban on gays?
In a media statement dated Monday, Jan. 28, the national office of the Boy Scouts said, "The BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission... ."
The statement continued, "The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents."
In short, the organization will leave sexual orientation issues up to local councils and local sponsors of scout troops. Parents can join whatever troop or pack they feel most comfortable joining. Commonly, Scouts are sponsored by churches, VFW posts and other non-profit organizations.
What have other politicians said about the new direction Scouting is taking?
Obama's take on the Boy Scouts came less than a week after press secretary Jay Carney told a press briefing he wasn't sure where the president stood on the issue. California state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, commended a local chapter of the Boy Scouts for approving a young man's Eagle Scout application despite being openly gay.
Democratic New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, the only openly gay senator on New York's state level and an Eagle Scout, encouraged his constituents to petition the Boy Scouts in a letter-writing campaign. Hoylman wants the organization to "act forcefully and unequivocally" to end its ban on gays. The senator wrote his own letter to scouting executives calling the lifting of the ban "woefully inadequate" at the local level.
Did the Boy Scouts backtrack on previous policies?
The Associated Press reveals the Boy Scouts firmly kept their anti-gay stance seven months ago. Since then, the national office has reconsidered its policy. A meeting of leaders is to take place within the next week, a time when leaders may vote on the new proposal.
William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics.
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