Headlines on the Web read something along the lines of “Boy Scouts of America End Ban on Homosexual Leaders”. While technically a true statement, reading the story tells a slightly different tale. Not of an organization embracing equal rights but rather a tale of an organization abdicating centralized control. What really happened was a blanket prohibition put into effect in 1978 was lifted. Instead of a blanket policy preventing discrimination to replace it, something else entirely was done.
According to Alan Yuhas at The Guardian, local units will now be able to select their own leaders according to their own standards, meaning church-run groups can “choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own”. Given that approximately 70% of all charters go to religious organizations, this really won’t change the discriminatory practice at the charter level as some religious-based prejudice runs deep.
Faced with the growing threat of lawsuits at the national level and the growing change in laws favoring equal rights, the national organization of Boy Scouts of America didn’t so much embrace equal rights as they abdicated central control to avoid litigation by passing such decisions and the legal risk that goes with such decisions off to local leaders.
Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and executive director of Scouts for Equality said, “It is not a victory but it certainly is progress. I think this is the most progressive resolution we could’ve expected from the Boy Scouts.”
What do you think? Progress on equal rights or litigation avoidance strategy? A little of both?