NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 20, 2013

Boy Scouts' policy alienates those who need them most


Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

When I was younger, I wanted to join the Boy Scouts. I wanted to go backpacking, hiking and whitewater rafting, to earn badges and, perhaps most importantly, to fulfill a human need for companionship and support from others. This dream, however, didn’t last long as I, not being a boy, was ineligible to join the Boy Scouts. Thus ended my brief experience with Scouting.

The Boy Scouts were brought back to mind recently by an article about their anti-gay policies. They have been in the media a lot lately as they struggle with the issue of gay and lesbian rights in a changing world. This issue tends to showcase the uglier side of human nature as people succumb to their tribal fear of that which is different, and respond irrationally and with anger. I have read stories of mothers who declared that if the Boy Scout policy is changed, they will immediately pull their sons out of its ranks, of hard-working young men denied badges and of loyal counselors losing jobs because of

their sexual orientation.

The sickness of fear and prejudice is corroding one of the essential pillars of the Boy Scouts’ purpose: community. This prejudice is an attempt to split the world into simple black and white, as if being gay were nothing but a poor choice; but in this attempt those who are not so easily categorized are alienated into a wasteland of gray. Those alienated by the Boy Scout policy are often those who most need the unbridled empathy and support that Boy Scout troops are meant to provide.

Just as the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s was met by lynchings and racist picket signs and the fight for women’s suffrage was dragged out by double standards for over half a century, the current gay rights movement faces opposition. Now the picket signs are held by the pudgy hands of 10-year-olds, fostering seeds of intolerance and hatred with boyish jaws set tight, and members of the Westboro Baptist Church with slogans slung like punches at the families of dead soldiers.

However, the fact of the matter is that all homophobes are fighting a losing battle. Fortunately, these pitiable protesters will fade into historical photographs, as our society shifts towards acceptance. Data collected by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., (http://www.pewresearch.org/2010/10/06/gay-marriage-gains-more-acceptance/) shows that 42 percent of Americans today favor allowing same-sex couples to marry, compared to only 27 percent in 1996. This number will continue to grow. A more detailed breakdown shows that younger Americans are more accepting than their parents and grandparents; 38 percent of baby boomers (born 1946-64) support same-sex marriage, a considerably lower number than the 53 percent support rate among Millennials (born after 1980).

As younger generations grow into leadership roles in our country, they will bring with them a growing acceptance. And as with previous civil rights victories, 50 years from now future generations will look back upon the gay rights movement and fail to comprehend on what grounds the opposition stood.

Alexa Looker

Newburyport