Coming as it did two weeks after the Boy Scouts of America opened its ranks to gay youths, the Great Salt Lake Council's response to newspaper photographs of Scouts among the thousands of participants appears at odds with the spirit if not the letter of the BSA's decision to end a century of discrimination based on sexual identity.
In a letter of warning to the two adult leaders Peter Brownstein and Neil Whitaker the GSLC's president, Bry Davis, and executive Rick Barnes accused them of promoting "the gay agenda," a phrase that has long been applied to equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The words are euphemistic for, among other things, the wholly discredited notion that homosexual adults are out to recruit boys and girls to their "gay lifestyle."
In the same vein, the national organization, while accepting gay youths, refused to extend the same open hand to gay adults. Retaining the adult ban serves to perpetuate the false stereotype of gay adults being poor role models and prone to pedophilia. Such willful ignorance in the face of increasing societal acceptance of gay rights is echoed in the GSLC's letter.
Davis and Barnes said that their decision was in keeping with the BSA's policy against using Scouting to "promote sexual orientation" that "gay agenda" again "or any other political or social agenda." Last year, when Boy Scouts were lined up on the tarmac to greet presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the GSLC chose not to discipline anyone. Now, in sternly labeling marching in the parade a political act, Davis and Barnes appear blind to the idea that their decision reflects a political and social agenda that is out of step with a majority of Americans.
If this sorry episode teaches us anything, it is that if Scouting is to shed its homophobic past, it clearly must confront the morally bankrupt attitudes of some of its leaders.