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Molly Birch
Molly Birch

My name is Molly, and I am in my second year at NMU. I come from Midland, MI, probably one of the most boring places on earth. However, we do have the only Tridge in the world, so that’s pretty nifty...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily GouinApril 19, 2024

Scouting out equality for gays

On Monday, Jan. 28, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) made an announcement: the ban on gays in the Boy Scouts is up for elimination in May.

Director of Public Relations for the BSA Deron Smith gave a written statement that said two very important things. One, the BSA would eliminate the national policy on gays. Two, the decision would be left up to local chapters of the BSA.

“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” Smith said.

Most chapters of the BSA are managed and run by religious institutions. But then, that is not a real surprise when one considers that the BSA was started as an organization in 1911 with close ties to the Protestant-based Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).

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The BSA has deep-rooted principles based in Christian morality. The Scouts’ Oath reads: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

Here is where contention has risen in the past between the BSA and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community.

What is an organization to do when religion and sexual orientation conflict with one another? These are, after all, two very powerful identities present in a person’s life.

The organization has had a ban on gays joining based on the premise that gays are not morally straight or clean. The Christian opposition to equality for gays believes, based on biblical text, that gays are immoral and an abomination.

Taking this into perspective, the BSA has held in the past that gays do not live up to the Scouts’ Oath, namely the morally straight portion.

For the most part, the BSA has had a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in place with regards to sexual orientation. When members have come out and announced their orientation, the BSA has denied them membership.

In 2000, a case came before the United States Supreme Court regarding gays in the BSA. The court decided in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that because the BSA, at the time, “[did] not want to promote homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior,” Dale’s association went against their moral underpinnings.

Since the BSA is a private organization, public statutes regarding discrimination cannot be applied to the Scouts. Furthermore, the court said requiring Dale to be admitted back into his duty as a Scoutmaster would violate the group’s First Amendment right, by way of expressive association — meaning that allowing a gay man to be in the Scouts would go against its value system.

All of this is tricky when discussing equality for those in the LGBT community. Being gay isn’t a choice, and I firmly believe that. When I was born, I was straight. No one told me, I just knew. It’s the same for everyone else.

For those who believe homosexuality is akin to sexual deviance, I say you are making an illogical leap when constructing an opinion about gays.

The fear of a gay man acting as Scoutmaster is one of ignorance. To be gay is not to be a pedophile. To be gay is not to have an insatiable sexual appetite for those of the same sex, regardless of their appearance. Homophobia exists because, in our society, it is still permissible.

So when I heard the Boy Scouts had made an announcement about lifting the ban on gays, I did not think it was a great leap forward for equality, but a public relations move, one which will not change the fact that those who become Scouts come from Christian families, some of whom do not acknowledge gays as people who exhibit a legitimate behavior.

To the BSA, I would say your organization is heading in the right direction. Now, it is a matter of instilling in the minds of those who are anti-gay or homophobic that being gay is no different than being straight in terms of sexual identity.

The question you have to ask yourself is complex: can one be both gay and Christian?

My answer would be yes. Denying your sexual identity is denying a part of yourself to the world. One can be a good person and a gay person.

And why shouldn’t a gay child or gay Scoutmaster have the opportunity to be a part of an organization that helps individuals maintain physical, mental and spiritual wellness?

When Americans acknowledge gay identity as a legitimate one, then our society will move in the right direction. The only thing that the LGBT community is asking for is the opportunity to enjoy the things everybody else does.

So let gays become Boy Scouts. Let them be children. Let them be mentors. Let them be equals.

Editor’s Note: This column is a part of a month-long series discussing human identity and how it pertains to conflicts within and between cultures.

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