In the end, the demise of the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay troop leaders seemed inevitable.
The ban always relied upon the canard that gay men are pedophiles and that scouting was incompatible with anything gay. And a policy based on lies cannot be maintained forever.
Once the BSA admitted gay scouts in 2013, troop leaders were bound to follow, particularly when everyone from the President on down hammers you endlessly for the ban–and your only supporters are among the most loathed factions in American politics.
Ending the Boy Scout ban neatly parallels the fight for marriage equality, right down to the timeline. The struggle to lift the Scouts’ antigay ban began in earnest in the early 1990s, with some key court cases, and really picked up steam in the 2000s.
Like marriage equality, the first major victory was partial, followed two years later by complete victory. And like marriage equality, religious right figures see the end of the BSA ban as the end of the world, with headline proclaiming the “moral collapse” of the Scouts.
There’s one big difference, and it’s not a good one. The new regulations have a religious liberty exemption baked into them. Because so many troops are sponsored by churches–particularly Mormon and Catholic–the BSA decided to let the troop sponsors set their own rules about troop leaders.
Which of course means that in many troops, nothing will change. Of course, some churches severed their ties with the Scouts two years ago for allowing gay youth to join. But in many remaining church-sponsored troops, the ban will remain in effect.
No doubt, the BSA hopes to put decades’ worth of bad press and years’ worth of declining corporate sponsorship behind them. Scout numbers have been falling like a rock in large part because BSA turned itself into an adjunct of the religious right. The question ahead is whether the change has come too late and with too many strings to change the decline.
If it hasn’t, the religious right will be quick to pin the blame on the change itself, not the damage that the ban had done to the organization and to so many good people.