Why the Boy Scouts’ half-measure won’t hold (II)

Read this scorcher of an editorial (link now fixed) from the New Haven Register on the Boy Scouts’ homophobia. Also, the Connecticut Yankee Council announced last week (before the national vote) that it will stop discriminating against boys and adults on the basis of sexual orientation.

The walls are crumbling. And my guess is that the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America no longer has the juice to enforce its discriminatory policies at the local level.

Why the Boy Scouts’ half-measure won’t hold

Boy_Scouts_BSA_Stamp

This commentary appeared earlier at The Huffington Post.

The compromise announced by the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday is untenable. And that is precisely why it’s good news.

More than 60 percent of the organization’s national leadership voted to approve a policy ending discrimination against openly gay scouts while keeping in place the ban against gay adult leaders. With the BSA finally dragging itself into the late 20th century, can the 21st be far behind?

The answer, I hope, is that the time to end discrimination has arrived. But it isn’t going to be accomplished without a lot of strife. As this story from the Associated Press makes clear, the organization seems likely to rip itself apart. Members of the homophobic religious right are already threatening to leave.

John Stemberger, the founder of an anti-gay group called OnMyHonor.net, went so far as to claim the BSA had caved in to “bullies” from Washington and Hollywood — a perniciously offensive twist given the bullying that many gay youths endure.

At the same time, you can be sure that those who have been fighting against discrimination will keep pushing. As Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson, a scout leader, noted several months ago, scout councils in liberal enclaves such as the Boston area have already endorsed nondiscrimination policies. Thursday’s national vote is an invitation to defy openly the ban on gay adult leaders.

I write from considerable experience. I am an Eagle scout. So is my 22-year-old son. I’m the former scoutmaster of his troop, and though I’m not as active these days, I continue to be a registered adult leader. I believe that scouting can be a life-altering experience, introducing boys to teamwork, fair play, love of the outdoors and respect for the environment.

As a scout leader who has participated in a number of training sessions, I can attest that the BSA’s discriminatory policies never came up in the context of actions we were expected to take. Even in conversations those policies were rarely mentioned. Here in the Northeast, I’ve found that most (though not all) adult leaders are opposed to discrimination.

We all make our peace with such things in our own way. Like Derrick Jackson, my personal policy was to hang in there as long as I was not put in a position of having to discriminate. I never was, though of course I also have no way of knowing how many gay kids and adults stayed away because they thought they wouldn’t be accepted. Still, I believed — and still do — that the good in scouting outweighs the bad, and that the organization is more likely to change if people of goodwill stay involved.

Though Thursday’s vote can be seen as a modest step forward, another possible compromise floated earlier this year would have been far more workable. You may remember that one: groups that charter troops, such as churches and civic organizations, would have been free to set their own policies.

Such a compromise would have accurately reflected how the BSA actually operates, as troops are considered part of their chartering organizations. To concoct a hypothetical, it would have opened the way for a Unitarian Universalist church to sponsor a troop that allowed gay scouts and adult leaders as well as atheists, another group banned under current BSA policy.

Following an uproar, though, the BSA’s national leadership retreated, leading to this week’s action — and to an opportunity to end scouting’s discriminatory policies once and for all. I welcome the moment. Far better to bring this embarrassment to an end than to muddle through for another five to 10 years.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

What did Dan Savage say about Scott Brown?

Republican political consultant Eric Fehrnstrom, whose clients include U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, issued a challenge to Media Nation on Twitter earlier today: “You should research some of the vile things that video maker Dan Savage has said about Scott Brown and other public figtures.”

Fehrnstrom was responding to my post asking why Brown didn’t take part in the “It Gets Better” video put together by the Massachusetts congressional delegation. Savage, a gay journalist and sex-advice columnist, is the originator of and driving force behind the “It Gets Better” campaign.

So, Media Nation readers, what of it? I am well aware of what Savage has said about former senator Rick Santorum. But to my mind, that doesn’t count, since Santorum had already said what Savage and his husband do in bed is just slightly more acceptable than “man on dog” sex or pedophilia. Nothing, no matter how vile, can top that.

I did a little idle Googling around and couldn’t really come up with anything Savage has ever said about Brown. But yes, I could have missed something. Please let me know in the comments.

Update: We have a winner! Check the comments.

Why did Scott Brown sit out “It Gets Better” video?


I have been trying to imagine what U.S. Sen. Scott Brown thought he would gain by declining to take part in the latest “It Gets Better” video. Aimed at gay and lesbian teenagers, this effort features every member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation except Brown, whose office issued a statement that he’s too busy creating jobs and stuff.

(Brown had better hope he doesn’t show up in any Hot Dog Day photos.)

We were kicking it around on Twitter yesterday, and several people thought Brown wanted to avoid stirring up the right so that he won’t face a primary challenge when he comes up for re-election next year. I’m not buying it. At worst, Brown might face a token right-wing opponent in the Republican primary. Being able to position himself as the moderate alternative to that kind of nuttiness would only help his campaign.

In fact, in the Massachusetts context, there was zero downside for Brown in taking part and a considerable potential upside. Yes, he might have lost out on some national right-wing money. But his participation would have been a hit with the vast majority of Massachusetts voters, and would have confounded the large and obscure field of Democrats running against him.

So I’m going to adopt a theory put forth by another Twitter commenter: Brown’s running for vice president, or at least he doesn’t want to do anything that would keep him off the national ticket if the opportunity presented itself. Yes, I know it sounds kind of nutty. But his decision to sit out the “It Gets Better” campaign defies non-nutty analysis.

Brown’s decision is also loathsome on the merits.

The talented and defensive Jarrett Barrios

Jarrett Barrios

The Boston Globe today reports on Jarrett Barrios’ resignation as president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation after the organization endorsed the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile without revealing that AT&T is a major funder.

As the Globe story notes, Politico has been all over this.

If you’re interested in some background on Barrios, Kristen Lombardi wrote a terrific profile of him for the Boston Phoenix in December 2001, when Barrios was a young, up-and-coming state representative getting ready to run for the Massachusetts Senate.

According to Lombardi’s reporting, Barrios was enormously talented but too eager to curry favor with then-House Speaker Tom Finneran, and as a result had alienated some folks in the progressive and gay-and-lesbian communities. And he was defensive. An excerpt:

When asked to respond to criticisms about his seeming willingness to compromise his principles, Barrios gets defensive even as he explains his positions. Leaning forward, and visibly angry, he says: “I’m going to let lie unattributed attacks and say I learned long ago I am far from perfect. But even we imperfects can make a difference.” He adds, “I try to adhere to my principles and be effective. I am most proud that I’ve managed to survive the House with my principles intact.”

It will be interesting to see what Barrios’ next step will be. If he plans to return to Massachusetts politics, he’ll have some explaining to do with regard to his anti-consumer endorsement of the AT&T deal.

Photo (cc) by Greg Hernandez and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Censors at Apple asked to censor

Unfortunately for Apple, it has forfeited its right to assert free-speech protection because of the censorious manner in which it has run its iTunes Store. So when a group of gay activists demands that Apple remove an app claiming it can “cure” people of homosexuality, what can we do except agree?

The day Apple stops discriminating against certain types of content is the day I come to the company’s defense.

It’s still news when a sportswriter comes out

I find it interesting that it’s 2011 and it’s still occasionally noteworthy when we learn that a journalist is gay. Today Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley writes a heartfelt piece — teased on page one — headlined “Welcome to my coming-out party.”

No surprise. I’d heard several times over the years that Buckley was gay, though, as Buckley makes clear, he wasn’t fully, publicly out. What makes his sexual orientation newsworthy are two factors:

  • He covers sports, a macho world where such things still matter, if not nearly as much as they used to. You can be sure that if Buckley’s beat were the Statehouse, he would not have written about being gay.
  • He’s probably best known as a regular presence on sports radio station WEEI (AM 850), where homophobia has been part of the mix for many years. Here’s just a taste. I don’t listen to ‘EEI as much as I used to, and perhaps the gay-baiting isn’t as bad as it was in the past. In any case, Buckley’s coming-out may encourage the station to clean up its act.

This is actually the second time a Herald sportswriter has come out — Buckley was preceded by Ed Gray in 2003. So let’s not make too much of this. Still, it’s a good thing that Buckley has decided to be who he is in public as well as in private. Somewhere today there’s a gay teenager feeling just a little bit better about himself.