Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Article excerpt

This is a big week for gays on both sides of the Atlantic. By the time you read this, the House of Commons will have voted to permit gay marriage, despite an angry revolt by a large number of Tory MPs; and in Texas the Boy Scouts of America may also have voted (less certainly) to lift its ban on 'open or avowed' homosexuals joining the youth movement. In both cases, the reforms are being presented as reflecting popular enthusiasm for 'fairness' and 'equality' and tolerance of diversity (little evidence though there may be of this) while at the same time showing tolerance of people lacking such enlightenment. So in Britain, churches are being promised immunity from legal discrimination claims if they refuse to marry same-sex couples, while in the United States the Boy Scouts movement, if it lifts the nation-wide ban on gay membership, will continue to allow local scout organisations to do as they please.

The Boy Scouts of America has for decades successfully defended its right to ban atheists, agnostics and homosexuals from membership on the grounds that they would violate its fundamental principles, enshrined in the Scout Oath and Law. Even the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the Scouts, as a private organisation, can set its own membership standards. This has not, however, prevented Barack Obama from weighing in this week on the side of reform.

Asked in a television interview whether he thought the Boy Scouts should be open to gays, he replied, 'Yes, ' and went on, 'I think that my attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life.'

Against him stands the Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who was once such a keen scout that he has even written a book enthusing about the movement. He told a scouts' gathering the other day that the movement was a key reason why he joined the US Air Force and later sought public office, and that the failure of society at large to adopt its values was a cause of teenage pregnancy and a reason why youths grew up to be 'men joining their fathers in prison'. He said that he hoped that the Scouts would stay faithful to their traditional values and wouldn't bend to the whims of 'popular culture'. But as with gay marriage in Britain, where even gays have not been clamouring for reform, there doesn't appear to be much popular pressure in America for change to the Boy Scouts' constitution. …

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