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Northeastern community reacts to new Boy Scouts policy

The Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on openly gay leaders on Monday, relaxing its policy in order to allow gay adults to serve as den leaders, scout­mas­ters, and camp coun­selors. But the new policy comes with a caveat, one that will permit church-​​sponsored units to pick their own leaders and con­tinue excluding gays for reli­gious reasons.

We can­vassed the campus com­mu­nity after the mas­sive youth orga­ni­za­tion had announced the policy shift, asking stu­dents and fac­ulty with a par­tic­ular interest in gay rights to react to the deci­sion. All three respon­dents said the same thing: The new policy does not go far enough and rep­re­sents only “incre­mental progress” in the ongoing cul­tural shift toward gay equality.


“Claiming ‘morality’ or ‘reli­gious beliefs’ cannot over­ride basic prin­ci­ples of equality.”


These ‘reli­gious exemp­tions’ are wor­ri­some,” said Suzanna Wal­ters, pro­fessor of soci­ology and director of Northeastern’s Women’s Gender, and Sex­u­ality Studies Pro­gram. “Reli­gious ‘freedom’ to dis­crim­i­nate is still dis­crim­i­na­tion, even if cloaked in the robe of bib­lical ideology.”

She added: “Claiming ‘morality’ or ‘reli­gious beliefs’ cannot over­ride basic prin­ci­ples of equality.”

Libby Adler, a law pro­fessor with exper­tise in sex­u­ality and gender iden­tity, said that the group is get­ting too much credit for the new policy. She likened the deci­sion to the states’ rights posi­tion, which refers to the polit­ical powers reserved for U.S. state governments.

The new policy is not a ban against dis­crim­i­na­tion,” Adler said, “it’s per­mis­sion for the local orga­ni­za­tions to make their own deci­sions without author­i­ta­tive rule coming from the top. It’s almost as if they said there is no rule.”

Joseph Lagalla, the director of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for NU Pride, ini­tially praised the deci­sion and then called on the BSA to expand its mem­ber­ship policy to include pro­vi­sions for boys of all gender identities.

My first reac­tion to the news announcing the vote to lift the ban on gay scout leaders was excite­ment mixed with pride,” said Lagalla, E’17. “How­ever,” he added, “I do not see this as the end of the LGBT move­ment in the orga­ni­za­tion. As a member of our school’s pride group, I would like to see the board address the full gender and sex­u­ality spec­trum. It would be fan­tastic to see the Scouts move toward inclu­sion of trans boys and other appro­priate gender identities.”

-By Jason Kornwitz

Published On: July 29, 2015 | Tags: ,,
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