Back in the Summer, I told you about a movement among Eagle Scouts, some of whom have been sending back their awards — in effect, resigning — in protest of The Boys Scouts of America's discriminatory policy banning gay, bi, and trans scouts and troop leaders, as well as atheists.
Here's a great example of the people those men are trying to stick up for: Ryan Andresen is 17, he's been in Boy Scouts for over a decade and has completed all the Eagle Scout requirements, including working with younger kids on a tolerance/anti-bullying project for his community service requirement.
But Andresen isn't going to get to be an Eagle Scout, because he's openly gay.
The Boy Scouts of America sent a statement to several news organizations, including ABC, in which they say they didn't inquire about Ryan's sexual orientation.
"This scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout counselor that he does not agree to scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation," Deron Smith, a spokesman for the organization said in a statement. "Agreeing to do one's 'Duty to God' is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank."
In an interview with Yahoo! News Ryan said that his scoutmaster knew he was gay.
"He had been telling me all along that we'd get by the gay thing," Ryan told Yahoo News. "It was by far the biggest goal of my life. It's totally devastating."
Check out a Tumblr collecting nearly 200 Eagle Scout resignation letters from adults who no longer want to be associated with an organization that would deny a kid something he's worked hard to achieve simply because that kid is gay. (Again, the BSA is entitled to its opinion on this matter. But its members are also entitled to express their disgust with that opinion.)
I recently posted a couple of articles featuring heartfelt letters from people who had earned their Eagle Scout awards as boys, but no longer wanted to be associated with the Boy Scouts of America and its rule banning gay scouts and GBLT troop leaders. Instead, they were choosing to return their awards to the BSA, in hopes that scouting's national organization would recognize that this rule isn't something all scouts want. In fact, many wrote about their frustration with what they see as the BSA failing to live up to the values that scouting teaches.
As of August 4, more than 80 former Eagle Scouts have sent photos of their resignation letters to the Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges Tumblr blog, where the letters and the protest they represent are being archived.
Reading the comments that have turned up here at BoingBoing, I get the sense that there are many more Eagle Scouts—and active Boy Scout troops—that also disagree with the BSA, but don't want to resign from local connections that don't reflect the national organization's bigotry. In fact, the Northern Star Council, which represents 75,000 scouts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, is openly bucking Boy Scouts of America policy, and has been for years.
The Associated Press ran a piece yesterday looking at this dissent and the effect—or, it seems, lack thereof—it is having on BSA policy.
Deron Smith, the Boy Scouts' national spokesman, said there was no official count at his office of how many medals had been returned. He also noted that about 50,000 of the medals are awarded each year.
Beyond the Eagle Scout protests, the Boy Scouts' reaffirmation of the no-gays policy has drawn condemnation from liberal advocacy groups, newspaper editorialists and others. In Washington state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, an Eagle Scout, joined his Democratic opponent, Jay Inslee, in suggesting the policy be changed.
But overall there has been little evidence of any new form of outside pressure that might prompt the Scouts to reconsider.
The leadership of the Scouts' most influential religious partners - notably the Mormons, Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists - appears to support the policy. And even liberal politicians seem reluctant to press the issue amid a tense national election campaign.
Earlier this week, I posted a couple batches of letters from grown-up Eagle Scouts who chose to resign their hard-earned, elite awards in protest of the Boy Scouts of America's policy banning gay and atheist scouts and troop leaders.
I'm still getting letters in the mail. These things are coming in faster than I can update the posts. Which is why I'm very glad that several former Eagle Scouts have taken matters into their own hands, starting a Tumblr that can play host to all these letters, and all the ones going forward.
Burke Stansbury put the site together. In his own resignation letter, he wrote:
I am not proud to be affiliated with an organization that excludes people based on their sexuality. Many of my closest friends are gay, lesbian, or transgender and it pains me to think that I invested time in an organization that prohibits their membership. It's a shameful, bigoted policy. Plain and simple.
I'll be contacting people who have sent me letters recently about whether it's okay to forward their emails to Burke. And if you'd like your letter to be archived on the Tumblr, there's an easy-to-use submission form right on the site.
Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges on Tumblr
Sally Ride's sister, on the quiet acknowledgement of her orientation: "I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay."
Astronaut, physicist, and American science hero Sally Ride died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, at 61. Dr. Ride was the first American female in space, and left a vast legacy of scientific accomplishments. When her astronaut days ended, she worked to promote space and science literacy to young people around the world through Sally Ride Science.
As friends and professional associates knew, and as was quietly noted in the obituary released on her website, Ms. Ride had been in a committed relationship with a woman for some 27 years. She met her partner Tam O'Shaughnessy nearly 50 years ago. Neither her cancer diagnosis nor her orientation were publicly shared, prior to her death.
"The pancreatic cancer community is going to be absolutely thrilled that there's now this advocate that they didn't know about. And, I hope the GLBT community feels the same," Bear, who identifies as gay, told Buzzfeed. "I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them."
Asked about those who would have opposed legal recognition of her sister's relationship, Bear Ride bluntly replied, "Who cares about them, really? There are those who are stubbornly ignorant, and if they want to continue in that, God bless them, but probably best not to talk to my family."
Minneapolis' Catholic DeLaSalle High School had a mandatory assembly recently for its senior class, to educate the students on what marriage is and what a family ought to look like. As you might guess, this also meant telling the students who didn't count as a family and why some families were bad.
It didn't go over very well, according to a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
"The first three-quarters of the presentation were really good," said Bliss. "They talked about what is marriage and how marriage helps us as a society. Then it started going downhill when they started talking about single parents and adopted kids. They didn't directly say it, but they implied that kids who are adopted or live with single parents are less than kids with two parents of the opposite sex. They implied that a 'normal' family is the best family."
"When they finally got to gay marriage, [students] were really upset," said Bliss. "You could look around the room and feel the anger. My friend who is a lesbian started crying, and people were crying in the bathroom."
Bliss was one of several students who stood up to argue with the representatives from the archdiocese. One girl held up a sign that said, "I love my moms."
It's not a coincidence that this assembly was mandatory for seniors only. Minnesota will be voting on a marriage amendment this year. In fact, the presenters from the archdiocese tried to bring that issue up, but didn't get much of a chance to talk about it because of students—politely and respectively—challenging the rhetoric and asking pointed questions about evidence.
Also not random chance: The fact that high school students would challenge the Bishops on these issues to begin with. There is broad support for gay marriage among people under 30. In fact, multiple polls have shown that somewhere between 55% and 65% of all people under 30 support gay marriage. Like the seniors at DeLaSalle, a majority of young Americans get that this isn't a political football, it's a civil rights issue.
Read the Minneapolis Star-Tribune story about what happened at DeLaSalle High School.