My letter to the Boy Scouts returning my Eagle Scout medal
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.
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.