Scouts’ Say on Gay: Leader & Eagle call for change in policy

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By MIKE DESOCIO
Media Editor

WATCH: Su Brooks is an adult leader and volunteer with the Monmouth Council Boy Scouts of America, who contributes to scouting through the Order of the Arrow (OA), scouting’s national honor society. She has been with scouting since her son’s involvement through Cub Scouts all the way to Eagle. Brooks has extensive experience as a leader and has been trained in the rigorous “Wood Badge” leader program.

Brooks discusses her views on gay rights issues as well as her reaction to the landmark BSA v. Dale Supreme Court Case, in 2000, that established the BSA’s right to exclude people, such as homosexuals, as the organization sees fit.

“It’s just discrimination, that’s what it is,” said adult scout leader Su Brooks, of Tinton Falls, regarding the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) anti-gay leadership policy, which has recently become the subject of much controversy.

It all started with Jennifer Tyrell, a den mother who was forced out of her son’s Cub Scout Pack due to her homosexuality and subsequently started a petition that made national headlines.

Her petition on Change.org, which was signed by over 275,000 people, recently caught the eye of prominent gay-rights activist and Eagle Scout Zach Wahls. Wahls has been at the front of the gay-rights issue since his testimony to the Iowa State Government that went viral on YouTube.

“Scouts for Equality,” an organization that Wahls cofounded, presented the petition at a BSA national business meeting on May 30. This happened to coincide with the formation of a BSA committee to review the issue due to a “voting member of scouting” who presented a resolution earlier in April. The committee and resolution, however, do not officially indicate that the BSA has plans to change its membership policies in any way.

According to current BSA policy, homosexuals are “inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.”

Since then, Eagle Scouts and scout leaders alike have taken to the internet to voice their opinions on the topic, many of which can be found on the “Scouts for Equality” website.

“We just need to get rid of that policy. It’s not doing us any good, and it’s actually, probably hurting our organization a lot. It’s keeping a lot of people from realizing…well, it’s a really great opportunity,” said Eagle Scout and CHS alumnus Chris Landi, of Morganville, regarding his views on the topic.

During his years in scouting as a youth, Landi says he “never really knew any gay people,” something that has changed since he went to Emerson College.

“I’ve met a couple since going to Emerson. It was never really something that I had to think about before. Now it’s just something that’s in the back of my head.  It’s become more of an issue to me.”

Landi thinks that much of the controversy regarding the topic comes from fear and lack of understanding of homosexuality.

“It think we tend to look at homosexuality as a life choice. I think we tend to stereotype it and we don’t realize that they’re normal people.”

Normal people for whom, according to Landi, “there is no reason that [they] can’t be a fantastic scoutmaster.”

Emphasizing the importance of leaders in scouting, Landi cited his own scoutmaster as one of his biggest role models in life.

“Those leaders have the opportunity to make a huge impact on a scout’s life.” Landi also added, “I don’t see why sexual orientation should have any impact on a scouter’s ability to make a positive impact.”

Overall, Landi was hopeful about the future of scouting.

“I think they’ll change. There’s been a lot of pressure on them recently. I think the fact that they’re even opening it up to discussion is very hopeful for ultimately reversing the policy,” he said.

Landi would love to see the BSA as a completely accepting organization.

“I hope that it allows us to open up and bring the core ideals of the program to a wider group of people.”