The five separate rallies held in the Sunshine State were organized by social conservative John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council. He predicts that if the ban is repealed there will be a "mass exodus not only of major denominations but of common sense parents saying, 'We can't trust scouting anymore.' There's not that moral consistency in the program."
"The reason we believe this resolution is a bad one for scouting is because it brings sex and politics into scouting," says Greg Roe of the Gulf Ridge Council troop #402, the Tampa-based chapter of the Boy Scouts of America. Sounding like officials with the military who defended "don't ask, don't tell," Roe says that the Scouts have always had gays in their ranks, but not openly declared gays.
"Today in scouting we have many boys who have same-sex attractions, and many leaders who have that same sexual attraction," Roe said. "So we have no policy that says that 'you cannot be a gay and be a Boy Scout.' The difference in what we have today and what they're proposing, is the words 'open and avowed.' And the way I would interpret that is, what does it mean to be an open gay today?"
Well, what does it mean to be an open gay today?
Roe says he and his colleagues "look at their parades, look at their magazines, we look at their TV shows, all centered on this gay life. What is it about? It's about sex, and it's about the political agenda of promoting equality." Roe said he has no qualms about equality and doesn't believe in discrimination, but definitely has an issue about sex, "whether it's heterosexual or homosexual, outside the moral values we support with these boys. We teach them those values."
The 1,400-member national board votes next week in Grapevine, Texas on whether or not to drop its ban on gay Scouts, but not on whether to rescind the ban on gay adult leaders, much to the chagrin of some activists.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released last week showed that 63 percent of Americans support allowing gay scouts to join, and the public opposes the plan to continue to ban gay adults from Boy Scout leadership by a 56 to 39 percent margin. That contrasts with a USA Today/Gallup poll last year, where only 42 percent said openly gay adults should be able to serve as leaders.
Greg Roe says that everyone in the scouting establishment wants to keep the ban, and that it's up to the Scouts to determine their own membership for over 100 years.
He says that in the Scout oath, "traditional moral values" have been an established tenet for over 100 years. "And those values then are instilled in those boys that they use to take and assume leadership positions throughout our country and their lives," he says." And what we're simply saying is that right now, scouting provides that opportunity."
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a 5-4 vote that because it is a private group, the Boy Scouts had a constitutional right to exclude openly gay people from leadership positions.