Boy Scouts vote to allow openly gay leaders, Mormon Church considering exit

Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay scout leaders to serve in the organization. The move had been in the works for months — Scott Walker had earlier expressed concern over the likely shift, saying that the ban “protected children” — and was ratified by a solid majority of the organization’s executive committee.

The move represents a massive affirmative shift by one of the nation’s largest youth organizations. Here is the statement from former Defense Secretary and Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates:

However, despite a compromise in the proposal that allows church-sponsored troops to select their own leaders, the Mormon Church indicated that it would consider leaving the organization entirely rather than be a part of an LGBT-affirming Boy Scouts. As the Church wrote in a statement:

The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.

This hairsplitting would represent an affirmation of the Scouts’ previous policy, holding that gay troops are OK, but when they grow up they become pedophiles.

While the Mormon Church is more than welcome to exit the organization for any reason they choose — just as no one is forcing the Mormon Church to perform same sex marriages — one can’t help but feel like the move is a bit petty to say the least.

Especially since gay leaders can still be excluded on a troop by troop basis, despite not being banned on a national level. As reported by CNN:

However, former Boy Scout leadership team member Jon Langbert told CNN’s Carol Costello he believes the new policy isn’t a cure-all, since local troops will still be allowed to make the decision on whether to allow gay leaders.

“What does that do to folks like me?” asked Langbert, who is openly gay and says he gave up his leadership role when other fathers complained. “If I want to participate with my son, do I now have to start ringing up on the phone and calling around to different troops and saying, ‘Do you guys discriminate, or am I a first-class citizen in your troop and I can join?’ “

In any case, progress is progress. Especially when that progress comes not by legislative or judicial action, but rather by a voluntary recognition by a religiously affiliated organization that their previous policy was a mistake, and that affirming LGBT equality is simply the right thing to do.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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