Two months ahead of the Boy Scouts of America’s national board meeting, the organization’s leadership is polling its members on the possibility of reversing its policy to exclude gay scouts.
But the survey, posted by the New York Times, goes beyond simple “yes” or “no” questions. Of the 13 questions listed, six present scenarios that members are asked to deem acceptable or unacceptable. Examples include:
2. Tom started in the program as a Tiger Cub, and finished every requirement for the Eagle Scout Award at 16 years of age. At his board of review Tom reveals that he is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the review board to deny his Eagle Scout award based on that admission?
3. Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?
NBC News reports than more than 1.4 million surveys have been emailed to registered volunteers, parents of Scouts, and alumni, and are asking for the surveys to be returned by April 4.
The BSA’s ban on gay scouts and leaders has been the subject of national conversation since the organization’s decision to reaffirm its position last year. The organization revisited the issue last month, but chose to delay a vote until May and, despite recent Quinnipiac polling that shows 55% of Americans say the BSA should drop its ban, is conducting its own poll ahead the vote.
But, as the survey makes the rounds, BSA members are speaking up and bringing the conversation back into the news.
“It’s very hard to fit morality into a pie chart,” Brad Hankins, an Eagle Scout and the national campaign director for Scouts for Equality, told MSNBC in an interview. Scouts for Equality, formed last summer after the BSA’s reaffirmation of its policy, is led by four straight Eagle Scouts who organized in hopes to get the Boy Scouts to reconsider its stance.
Since last summer, Scouts for Equality gathered more than a million signatures in support of reversing the BSA’s ban, but Hankins said it’s been a tough road for the group. “When we went to BSA headquarters in February to deliver the 1.5 million signatures from the American public that we collected over the first half of the campaign, we felt that the BSA was ready to make a decision. The postponement until May was very disappointing, to say the least.”
“It is immoral to discriminate against our gay brothers and sisters in Scouting,” Hankins added, on the catalyst behind Scout for Equality’s actions. “We see what this ban is doing to the public perception of the Boy Scouts of America and we want to help rebuild it.”
Sixteen-year-old Andrew Lama, press secretary for the Equal Scouting Task Force, echoed Hankins’ words in addressing the BSA’s longstanding ban on gay members. “On our uniform, we have a purple patch called the World Scout Emblem that displays am emblem symbolizing the bond of brotherhood,” Lama told MSNBC.com. “This says that every Scout is a brother…Thousands of boys across the country depend on the BSA for leadership and organization. It’s our youth program, it’s what we do every week, it’s what we swear to. It’s our childhood. We’re not trying to put it in a bad light, we just disagree with this policy.”
Lama said the Equal Scouting Task Force isn’t trying to change the BSA’s ties with religious organizations, which have been cited as being behind the BSA’s commitment to the ban, but rather focus on the importance of LGBT equality.
“It’s unfair that I’m allowed to do something, but my neighbor isn’t,” Lama said.
Along with Scouts for Equality and the Equal Scouting Task Force, several high-profile figures have also openly disagreed with the BSA’s ban on gay members. Musicians Carly Rae Jepsen and Train have pulled out of the BSA’s National Jamboree, held every four years, in protest, and President Obama also recently denounced the ban.
“All these gay Scouts want is the ability to live up to the first tenet of the Scout Law: A Scout is Trustworthy,” Hankins said. “I hope that even supporters of the ban would recognize a preference towards honesty and transparency, over opaqueness.”
In an email, BSA spokesman Deron Smith that the survey “will be put into a larger report and will help inform the officers’ work on a resolution regarding membership standards.”
The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America will meet in Texas from May 22-24, where a vote on the policy is expected.