The BSA’s ban on openly gay scout leaders took another disturbing turn recently when it emerged that the BSA is now blocking scouts from leadership positions even when they have taken steps to hide their sexuality, actions that are disturbingly reminiscent of the U.S. military’s failed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
College freshman and Eagle Scout Garret Bryant, 19, had been set for another summer holding a leadership position during the summer Boy Scout’s Camp Geronimo event, which is held about 90 miles northeast of Phoenix. All the while, he had a secret. Bryant is gay. This was a fact he had successfully hidden so as not to fall foul of the BSA’s revised policy which says that gay Scouts are acceptable but no Scout leader can be homosexual.
Then, about a month ago, Bryant reportedly changed his Facebook status to “In a Relationship.” This, he thought, was innocuous enough. His profile did not disclose anything about his sexuality or the gender of his romantic partner. However, a non-scouting friend who did know about Bryant’s sexual orientation asked what should have been a friendly, innocent question: “Oh, good for you, man, what’s his name?”
Bryant reportedly deleted this and other similar comments as soon as he saw them but, as he is Facebook friends with a number of people who are also Scouts, he says he feared there was going to be a problem. He was right. Though he doesn’t know precisely who told the BSA, Bryant was later informed by BSA leaders that the offer of being among the leaders of the camp event was no longer on the table because Bryant’s social media indicated that he is gay.
The BSA, while highlighting that no job offer was ever put in writing, has since said that local officials have determined that Bryant now doesn’t meet employment criteria.
Protestations might arise that if you are part of the organization, you have to abide by its rules. Here’s the thing, though: Bryant did play by the rules. He specifically hid his sexuality so that he could go on being a part of the Scouts, but he was then inadvertently outed. At no point had he “injected his sexuality,” as the BSA have termed in the past, into his Scouting duties. Also, to gauge the damage that this policy is doing, I think it’s helpful to hear what Bryant told NBC about what happened:
“I viewed my sexuality as something I was going to keep private. It was my private life. I wasn’t going to share it with the BSA. They made an issue of my sexuality. I was perfectly content with staying in the closet with the Scouts.”
Bryant now says that, as he’s been part of the Scouts since he was 11, this slap in the face is like being disowned by his family. The problems surrounding this policy aren’t over for Bryant, either. While he can continue to be involved in the Scouts in some capacity until the age 21, he will then be classed as an adult and as a result must meet the adult employment criteria. That would of course exclude him on grounds that the BSA now believes he contravenes the regulation against “open or avowed” homosexuals.
Bryant, though, and with the support of his mom, has decided to fight the BSA on this by going public with his story. While it may mean that he will now never get a shot at being a leader in the organization that he loves, he wants to highlight how harmful — not to mention, arbitrary — the no gay adults rule is.
This case shows in no uncertain terms that the BSA is using a policy very similar to how the US Army hounded gay soldiers under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Bryant never disclosed his sexuality — he wasn’t “open or avowed” — and yet one Facebook post by a friend was enough to terminate his chances of being employed as a leader. That’s not just disgusting, it’s chilling. Bryant says he was willing to stay in the closet. That demonstrates a kind loyalty that the BSA, in this regard, doesn’t deserve. It’s also a falsehood that shouldn’t be asked of someone so young.
Bryant isn’t the only fighting back against this ridiculous policy. Readers may remember the story of Geoff McGrath, a Seattle Eagle Scout whose Methodist church, knowing he is openly gay, asked him to set up a scouting troop. McGrath’s application sailed through until word got out that he’s gay. Then the BSA moved to boot him from that leadership role.
I’m glad to say that the church backing him has since refused to fire McGrath. The BSA then turned around and shut down the troop. The church has responded by saying that the group will continue to meet regardless of what the BSA says, essentially honoring the spirit of what the Boy Scouts is supposed to stand for, rather than the actions of its officials.
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