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The other day, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that they are continuing their ban on gays in Scouting. I can’t say it came as a shock to me, but it certainly was an utter disappointment.
Despite impassioned pleas from two of its own board members – each CEOs of Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For – BSA says there is no room for gays to be leaders or Scouts.
After spending nearly a decade in service with Scouting, to say that I’m disappointed in the ruling would be quite the understatement. I’m furious, in fact. I knew it was going to happen that way, but still, I spent most of my Tuesday thinking deep about what Scouting brought to my life, and all the positive experiences that surrounded my tenure.
Then when I read the news again, I felt nauseous.
Scouting was something I participated in throughout a large part of my youth. Ask my Mom about the time that I came home from elementary school; she’ll tell you I decidedly said I wanted to become a Cub Scout – and I did.
Throughout the years – from elementary school to junior high and on through high school, Scouting was an important part of my life. I scaled the ranks of Cub Scouts and went into Boy Scouts. And, just around the time I turned 18, I earned the rank of Eagle Scout – one of the proudest moments of my life still today – a rank and achievement that I’m honored to share with 10 of 12 men who have set foot on the moon (and all three Apollo 13 astronauts).
These years of service to my community mean a lot to me. And for the most part, it was never about me – it was about “do[ing] a good turn daily” (the official Scout Slogan). But most of all, I was just proud to be a Boy Scout, an organization that taught me about leadership, about preparedness, and most importantly, about giving back.
Even after hearing this disappointing news, nothing has changed. I’m still the proud Eagle Scout I’ve always been. I’m proud of the experiences I’ve had, I’m proud of the leadership that I’ve received and I’m proud about the leadership I’ve learned. If, some day, my other half and I have a son who chooses to follow a path in Scouting, I’d certainly love for all of us to be involved in our son’s Scouting life.
But hearing that news made for an uncomfortable day; it was a day of internal conflict. This amazing organization that led me to believe it was going to teach me the way to be a “good human” now suddenly is spouting off on these unfortunate beliefs (again), telling our youth and our leaders “if you’re gay, you’re not qualified to be a Scout or a leader” – beliefs that are contrary to how I view the Scout Oath, the Scout Law and Scouting in general.
While my career in Scouting never included any LGBT individuals that I’m aware of, I’d like to think that my small troop in Carlsbad, Calif. would have treated a gay parent or Scout the same as they would’ve treated any other parent or Scout – with dignity and respect – and would have at least overlooked the national level’s declaration. I wouldn't have had it any other way.
While some have tried to persuade me to hate BSA for their beliefs, I will not, I cannot, and I do not. But we as humans – many as parents – must be role models for our future generations. And to tell our youth that some are unqualified to be future leaders because they’re LGBT is unbecoming of an organization that is capable of so much -- and one that has shaped me into the man I am today.
I’ve had many outstanding adult leaders throughout my Scouting career, but one sticks out the most – perhaps because of the one line he’d use when, at the time, we were causing youthful chaos. He’d say “just … do the right thing”, and it got to me every time. So, while I continue to live by the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, and I continue to Do a Good Turn Daily, I’d love to remind the Boy Scouts of America organization one thing:
The same goes for you – just … do the right thing.
Dave McCulloch is a San Diego community activist. He is a board member of the Hillcrest Town Council, and also volunteers with various local organizations in the greater San Diego area. Follow him on Twitter @dtmcculloch or subscribe to him on Facebook.