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As I walked into my good friend Aaron*’s eagle scout ceremony last year, I expected it to be an enjoyable day full of laughter, good food, and reminiscent speeches by retired troop leaders. What I found instead did consist of everything listed previously, but it also contained something more: insight. That eagle scout ceremony was the event that made bias against homosexuals so much more of a reality for me, rather than just a concept that I knew existed, but had never really delved into.
As I was sitting down watching an elderly man in a tan uniform placing a shiny eagle badge on Aaron’s pin-filled vest, I noticed some of the other young men in a line beside Aaron. One of the boys stood out to me. The boy that stood out looked to have a forced smile on his face. I recognized the boy, named Ben*, from the school I was attending at the time, he was one out of four of the openly homosexual boys from Wilson High School.
From a recent survey, it was announced that “3.4% of US adults identify as LGBT” (Gallup Politics), which is a large chunk of the US population. So having that percentage in mind, would it be fair to have bias against that 3.4%? The Boy Scouts of America says yes. Written in the BSA Membership Policy is “we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals.”
I always knew of the whole “boy scouts can’t be gay” thing, but had never really thought it could be true. I always figured in today’s society it would be denounced, with equality being the most important value, especially for that of a boy scout. After Aaron’s official ceremony, there was a brunch where everyone got to talk and get a bit to eat. I sat down at a table with Aaron and his scout friends, including the boy that stood out from earlier. I noticed that while everyone was enjoying their patriotically colored cupcakes, Ben seemed extremely uncomfortable with the whole ordeal. I spoke to Aaron after the brunch to try and understand why Ben looked the way he did. Aaron explained to me that Ben always looked like that during one an eagle scout ceremony, because he knew “he would never become an eagle scout.” It was at that moment that I realized that it was true that openly gay males cannot be granted as an eagle scout, or troop leader.
The rule that openly homosexual males cannot be boy scouts has existed for a long time, dating back to the foundation of BSA in 1910. Due to the increasing amount of openly homosexual individuals, it seems that more and more are popping up within boyscout communities, and rather than kicking those individuals out, they just aren’t allowed to advance to becoming eagle scouts or troop leaders. Like Ben, who has requested to given eagle ranking, there was a boy in California named Ryan who had a similar situation happen to him. Ryan requested to be given eagle rank, but was rejected by the Boy Scout council due to “membership standards” (CNN).
Ben is still an active participant of BSA, but his sexual orientation remains a barrier that is yet to be broken down. In recent years, many organizations and individuals have protested against the ban on openly homosexual boy scouts. Even the president, Barack Obama, has made an active effort to stop the ban. Similar to the attitude of millions, Obama said “Gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life” (Reuters). So if even the president of America says that being gay shouldn’t be a barrier between earning an eagle scout, or participating at all, then shouldn’t that be the law? The issue is that Boy Scouts of America was made with a religious foundation, where homosexuality isn’t tolerated whatsoever.
Aside from Obama, there is a movement happening. The movement to stop this ban. Petitions have been created and are ready for any signatures they can get. Awareness is being spread about the issue. There was a time when the BSA membership policy was under evaluation, but it was announced that no changes would be made, which causing a revolt. Many retired boy scouts have since turned in their badges in an act of protest. More progress is that the idea is being considered that the sponsors of local troop leaders may be given the authority to decide who can become a member, which is a crucial to the ban on homosexuals.
After seeing the look of desperation in Ben’s eyes that day, my perspective has shifted entirely. Seeing him causes me to take a larger interest in the topic, and research what can be done about it. I signed a petition, along with over 470,000 other people, in an effort to stop the ban from existing. Everyday boys and girls are fighting against homophobic organizations, so to take a moment to sign a petition shouldn’t even require a second thought. Sexual orientation shouldn’t be the line between whether a boy scout can soar into being an eagle or not, because sexual orientation isn’t the deciding factor for what kind of values a person has.
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