Magazine article Insight on the News

Symposium

Magazine article Insight on the News

Symposium

Article excerpt

Q: Should Congress revoke the Boy Scouts' charter for banning gays?

Yes: The Boy Scouts must be told being `morally straight' means they cannot discriminate.

BY REP. LYNN WOOLSEY

Two months ago I introduced the Scouting for All Act, a bill to revoke the Boy Scouts of America's (BSA's) federal charter, not to punish the Boy Scouts, but to send a clear message that civil rights are alive and well in the United States and that Congress does not support discrimination in any form.

I'm not saying the Boy Scouts are bad; I'm saying intolerance is. I was a Girl Scout; my son was a Boy Scout; I know the value of Scouting and that's why I believe that Scouting should be available to all boys.

I also had no intention of trying to override the Supreme Court. The unchangeable fact is that the Supreme Court in June upheld the BSA's discriminatory policy. So the real question is not whether the Boy Scouts have a right to their discriminatory policy but whether their discriminatory policy is right.

In 1939, Marian Anderson, an African-American opera singer, was invited to perform at Constitution Hall, then operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), another federally chartered organization.

The DAR said Anderson could not perform there because she was black. As a result, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her DAR membership and coordinated a concert for Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial. More than 75,000 people attended and ultimately the DAR changed its policy of discrimination.

Simply because an esteemed organization holds a belief does not make it right. It was wrong for the DAR to discriminate against African-Americans then, and it is wrong for the Boy Scouts to discriminate against gays today.

My Republican colleagues, in opposing my bill, suggested that they spoke for the average American, that the vast majority of Americans support intolerance. They are wrong.

Opposition to the Boy Scouts' intolerant policy is not a fringe movement. It's part of the mainstream belief that intolerance in any form is un-American.

From Fall River, Mass., to Broward County, Fla., from Chicago to San Francisco, U.S. cities, private companies, nonprofit organizations, churches and families are saying "no" to intolerance.

In Chicago, the Boy Scouts no longer can use city parks, schools or public sites because their intolerant policy conflicts with the city's existing nondiscrimination policy.

In Fall River the local United Way voted overwhelmingly to withdraw support from the Boy Scouts.

Private companies are finding that the Boy Scouts' intolerance is unacceptable. Textron Inc. and Knight-Ridder have pulled their support from the Scouts.

When people step up and say intolerance is wrong, they can make a difference. One of those is Steven Cozza, a teenager from Petaluma, Calif., my hometown, who as a Scout realized that the Boy Scouts' policy against gays wasn't right and, at the age of 12, decided to do something about it.

Steven and his dad, Scott, started "Scouting for All," a national campaign to change the Boy Scouts' policy. To date, they've gotten more than 53,000 signatures in support of changing the policy.

Steven supports the abolition of the Scouts' prohibition on gays. He knows that it is wrong to exclude some boys based on sexual orientation and it is wrong to teach other boys by example to be intolerant.

Perhaps some people believe intolerance is okay. I do not and neither do the millions of people who live in the cities that have stood up to the Boy Scouts, work for the companies that have withdrawn their support or make contributions to the organizations that no longer support the Scouts.

The parents in Montclair, N.J., who are circulating a petition opposing the Boy Scouts' policy don't believe in intolerance. The elected officials in San Jose, Calif. …

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