The Boy Scouts of America is expected to announce today that it's ending its ban on gay adult leaders. Church-sponsored troops, though, will still be allowed to "continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own," according to a statement from the Scouts top executives.
Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd talks with Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and executive director of Scouts for Equality, about the significance of the change.
Interview Highlights: Zach Wahls
On his hope for Boy Scouts' inclusion of gay adults
“If the Boy Scouts take this step today, like we’re expecting them to, it’s going to be a pretty monumental step. I joined the Cub Scouts when I was 6 years old and I was lucky enough to have my two moms be a part of my scouting experience, and today’s decision is going to make sure that both gay scouts and gay adults across the country don’t have to be afraid anymore.”
On the exception for troops sponsored by churches
“About 70 percent of the Boy Scout units are chartered or legally sponsored by churches, and what this resolution would do is to prevent any discrimination for groups that are not chartered by churches, but allow churches to continue to select leaders who are in line with their religious beliefs without regard to sexual orientation... Our position from day one has always been that discrimination sends a harmful message to kids - gay and straight. And that discrimination has no place in scouting. That being said, there’s no doubt that this decision will lead to less discrimination in scouting and that’s a good thing.”
"I joined the Cub Scouts when I was 6 years old and I was lucky enough to have my two moms be a part of my scouting experience and today’s decision is going to make sure that both gay scouts and gay adults across the country don’t have to be afraid anymore."Zach Wahls
“Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts membership has been locked in a slide since 2000 when the Boy Scouts went to the Supreme Court to defend their ban on gay members and actually won with the right to continue to defend that ban. And the Boy Scouts have been going downhill basically ever since. And you’re absolutely right, there was a somewhat larger than normal loss in 2013 after they ended their ban on gay youth, but it actually wasn’t much greater than the structural loss that the Boy Scouts have been seeing since 2000. I think that there absolutely will be a lot of people who will walk away from the Boy Scouts after the decision to allow gay adults and hopefully we’ll also see a lot of people come back. The Boy Scouts research shows that about 600,000 children are being kept out of the Scouts specifically because of the ban on gay adults and hopefully those people and more will start to come back to scouting.”
On changing the organization's reputation
“Ever since the Boy Scouts went to the Supreme Court to defend this ban, there have been a lot of people who associate the Boy Scouts first and foremost with homophobia and with discrimination, and so of course that’s not going to do good things for their reputation. Our hope is that they’re able to finally take the right position and become an organization that’s looking forward and not back.”
On Boy Scouts President Robert Gates
“He is absolutely uniquely qualified to lead this kind of organization through a leadership transition like this one. The reality is that as the secretary of defense and the director of the CIA he oversaw change in policy in regards to gay adults and it doesn't surprise me that he's doing the same with the Boy Scouts of America.”
On keeping the Boy Scouts relevant
"At its core, it’s about environmental stewardship, promoting leadership ability and cultivating community service. These things are going to be in high demand in the coming years and decades, especially as we’re looking at fighting something like climate change. The millennial generation has shown to be supporting community service at historic record levels. And so I think the Boy Scouts' future in the United States of America, if they make the right decision today, looks very bright.”
This segment aired on July 27, 2015.