Boy Scouts Reconfirm Policy: No Gays Allowed

Gay rights groups say decision was 'secretive' and does not reflect most views.

ByABC News
July 17, 2012, 12:53 PM

July 17, 2012— -- The Boy Scouts of America today reaffirmed its policy to exclude gays from joining or being leaders, disappointing gay rights groups.

A special committee of Scout executives and adult volunteers formed in 2010 concluded unanimously that the anti-gay policy was the "absolute best" for the 112-year-old organization, national spokesman Deron Smith, told The Associated Press.

He said it represented "a diversity of perspectives and opinions," but did not name the members of that committee. The Scouts is one of the largest youth organizations in the country with 2.7 million members and more than 1 million adult volunteers.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and son of Iowa lesbians who has been outspoken on the issue, today accused the organization of basing its decision on a committee of "11 unelected, unnamed bureaucrats."

"Why not put out a call and make it a democratic process?" he said to "Why have a secretive committee make the decision?

"I believe the vast majority of Scout families do not support their policy on excluding gays, and if that is the case, they picked an awfully interesting way of affirming that in their report," Wahls said.

"It's disappointing," he said. "The first value of the Scout's law, is a scout is trustworthy, and this process does not sound trustworthy. We don't know who the people are -- they are not named and they are not willing to accept responsibility for their actions."

But the Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, told the AP that both leaders and Scouts overwhelmingly support the policy.

"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Mazzuca said. "We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."

Just this week AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, an executive board member of the Boy Scouts of America, said he was committed to ending the ban. He takes over as president in 2014, according to Wahls.

"Things are changing," said Wahls. "He will be one of the three most powerful men in the organization."

The exclusion policy was challenged in 2000, but the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Boy Scouts of America, ruling 5-4 that the organization was exempt from state laws that bar anti-gay discrimination.

The court overturned a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court to require a troop to readmit a longtime gay scoutmaster who had been dismissed.

The Girl Scouts of America has had a diversity policy and non-discrimination clause since 1980.

GLAAD President Herndon Graddick expressed dismay over the decision.

"With organizations including the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boys & Girls Club and the U.S. military allowing gay Americans to participate, the Boy Scouts of America need to find a way to treat all children and their parents fairly," said Graddick in a prepared statement.

"Until this ban is lifted, the Scouts are putting parents in a situation where they have to explain to their children why some scouts and hard-working scout leaders are being turned away simply because of who they are. It's unfair policies like this that contribute to a climate of bullying in our schools and communities. Since when is that a value worth teaching young adults?"

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. gay-rights group, called the Scouts' decision "a missed opportunity of colossal proportions."

"With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued," he said. "They've chosen to teach division and intolerance."