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JULY 25, 2012 3:39PM

My letter to the Boy Scouts returning my Eagle Scout medal

Rate: 31 Flag

It makes me a little sad to send back my Eagle Scout award, but it makes me sadder that young gay men are denied the opportunity to earn it at all.

BSA letter

July 24, 2012

BSA National Executive Board
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
PO Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079

To Bob Mazzuca, Wayne Brock, Wayne Perry, and the BSA National Executive Board:

It is with great sadness that I return my Eagle Scout medal in protest of the Boy Scouts of America’s policy of discrimination against gay scouts and scouters. I attained the rank of Eagle in 1999 as a member of Troop 340 in Monroe, NY. Although there have been many great and notable accomplishments in my life since, I still consider my Eagle award to be my most challenging, rewarding, and meaningful personal achievement.

One of the core values taught by the Boy Scouts of America is citizenship. This value is so integral to the scouting experience that a scout must earn three citizenship merit badges—Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the World—before he can be considered for the rank of Eagle. But what are we teaching our young men about citizenship when we show them that certain people can (and should) be excluded based on their sexual orientation? What happens when those scouts graduate from the program and encounter a gay neighbor or classmate or coworker? (Because they will.) What are we telling the young, closeted gay men currently active in the Boy Scouts about their value as members of the organization and of their community? This discrimination is all the more deleterious because it originates from an organization respected by many as a model of good character.

For a long time after the 2000 Supreme Court ruling I defended the BSA to my friends and colleagues. “Sure,” I’d say, “they may be wrong on this particular issue, but no organization can be perfect, and the Boy Scouts do so much good that they shouldn’t be condemned for this one fault.” But as time passed that defense felt increasingly hollow. Gay rights is the defining civil rights issue of our generation, and by reaffirming your commitment to bigotry you have placed yourself decisively on the wrong side of history. It no longer matters how good your program may be: no one remembers how efficient the Montgomery public transit system was in 1955. All we remember about them now is their seating policy.

I earned the rank of Eagle a few months after Matthew Shepard was tortured and killed for being gay. The Supreme Court voted to protect your right to discriminate one week before two teens in West Virginia punched and kicked a man to death for being gay. Your recent reaffirmation of your discriminatory membership policy comes amidst a national epidemic of gay teen suicides. I’m not saying the BSA would ever condone violence against gay men—of course they wouldn’t—but your position does contribute to a culture of discrimination and ignores the dangerous realities faced by gay men and women in today’s America. This is not good citizenship.

I wholeheartedly urge you to reconsider this policy that excludes good, principled people from Scouting. Until you do I can no longer, in good conscience, take pride in this award.

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A very well written letter. I hope that your action as well as the actions of others will convince the BSA to review and reverse their position excluding Scots based on sexual orientation.
Outstanding letter. I admire you for sending that medal back. I know it was hard-earned.
I hope many others follow your lead.....what a good thing you did.
Excellent!!! I am so proud of you for taking this action. What the BSA have done tarnishes life for all of us who believe in freedom. Thanks!!
a truly excellent letter, Shaggylocks. I hope it will make a deep impression on the recipients, making them truly THINK about the far reaching implications of their "no gays" policy.

Highly rated.
Good for you. Worthy of a true Eagle Scout.

Thank you for doing this. I hope others will do the same.
It's sad that you have to do this (but I do think you have to do it, and I thank you for doing it) because you did all that was expected of you. You performed all of the required tasks in good faith, only to be betrayed by the organization in which you put that good faith.

I hope the BSA is inundated with medals.
You're a true citizen. It's good to see you around these parts.
An excellent letter. It is good to see you here.
I wish you would send your beautifully written letter to the New York Times. I admire you for taking such thoughtful action on such an important issue. I completely agree with you that discrimination against the lesbian and gay communities is the defining civil rights issue of our generation. Some day future generations will shake their heads in wonder that it took us so long....
I haven't read whether this is something being done by other Eagle Scouts. I hope it is. If it's not, I hope you've started a movement. Your excellent letter could certainly be the model.
Congrats on the EP.

That said, I fully support what you did and why you did it. It's an appalling situation. I never achieved the level of Queen's Scout (your equivalent of an Eagle Scout) for a number of reasons, not the least of which involved an inability to follow most of the "Boy Scout Laws", but I always knew that discrimination was wrong. I'd have done the same as you. Kudos.
I must agree with what others have already said: This is a very well-written, well-reasoned letter. You may have given back your medal, but you displayed the kind of mettle the Scouts can only dream of. We're proud of you, but, really, you should be very proud of yourself. R.
It's upsetting to me that people keep forgetting that the Boy Scouts also discriminate against atheists. It's still O.K. to hate that particular group.

Good for you. Excellent letter, and even better principles. I hope it has some kind of effect.
what jeanette de main said. kudos, shaggy.
Nothing impresses me more than to learn that a man was an Eagle Scout unless he also stands up for his beliefs with great courage. Thank you.
You obviously don't need a medal to be an outstanding Citizen in the Community, Citizen in the Nation, or Citizen in the World. Thank you.
This was a very courageous decision. Congratulations on the EP and the Big Salon piece.
One of the most articulate and courageous arguments against the BSA policy I've read in a long time.
Thank you
As a registered Scouter and the mother of an Eagle, I commend you. There is no reason for BSA to continue this heinous policy. Indeed it is counter to all the tenets of Scouting. You may have returned the medal, but once an Eagle, always an Eagle.
I am for equal treatment and respect for all. I also am for free assembley and we should not force a group to come to a particular way of thought. That being said, it is a powerful statement to send something hard earned back and I applaud the conviction. I hope it resonates as your voice in this group should matter.
Bravo to you for having the bravery to say those words, and the fortitude to give up something that means so much to you. For seeing what the award really stands for, you've proven yourself a far better citizen than any medal ever could.
Something to consider is that the Boys Scouts is a human institution, and has all the foibles of any other human institution. In my home town in Illinois (the same town from whence emanated the former governor George Ryan, who now sits in Federal prison) there were a lot of Eagle Scouts. It was mostly fake. To become an Eagle Scout you had to earn 21 merit badges, and they were awarded often for doing nothing whatsoever.

An example was when our troop went on a canoe trip in northern Wisconsin, at the Region Seven Canoe Base in Boulder Junction. Not long after I returned I, along with everyone else who went on the trip received merit badges for cooking, camping and canoeing.

I didn't apply for the merit badges, and didn't do anything in the lists of requirements for any of them. I was a pretty good swimmer, and took our troop from last to second in a relay race at summer camp, but that didn't qualify me for the swimming merit badge I received. One time a group of us met with a lawyer, who talked about citizenship for about fifteen minutes. We got merit badges for citizenship in the home, community and nation.

Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker, trades on his "earning" of Eagle Scout status as a qualification for office. Given what he has done since then, I believe it is fair to say he faked his Eagle Scout credentials.

I'm sure most Eagle Scouts earned their status, including the author here. It would help to broaden the context, though, and recognize that, just like the Catholic church (not Church), Penn State, J.P. Morgan Chase, Monsanto, GlaxoSmithKline, R. J. Reynolds, GE, and really any institution, the Boy Scouts are as prone to human weakness as you would find elsewhere.