Historic: New York-Area Boy Scouts to Lead NYC Pride
In a historic first, New York-area Boy Scouts and members of the Brooklyn Chapter of Scouts for Equality, an organization composed largely of Boy Scouts of America (BSA) alumni dedicated to ending the BSA’s ban on gay members and leaders, will be among the groups leading the 44th Annual NYC Pride March, the nation’s oldest and largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride event.
Active and former Boy Scouts and leaders will present the American flag during the national anthem at the NYC Pride March opening ceremony and subsequently serve as Color Guard during the march, leading more than 14,000 participants down Fifth Avenue in a celebration of recent advancements made for LGBT equality.
Despite the BSA’s national policy that bans gay and lesbian adults from participating in Scouting, the Greater New York Councils, which serves nearly 150,000 Scouts in New York City, has previously stated its commitment to full inclusion of gay Scouts regardless of age.
“NYC Pride warmly welcomes Scouts for Equality to the route as our 2014 NYC Pride March Color Guard,” said NYC Pride March Director, Dave Studinski. “Our 2014 theme is ‘We Have Won When We’re One,’ and this message resonates well with Scouts for Equality’s mission. From their participation in our step-off ceremony through the moment they pass the historic Stonewall Inn, may the Scout’s joint display of our nation’s colors and the rainbow flag remind us all that the LGBT movement seeks not tolerance, but acceptance as equals.”
“We are grateful for this invitation from NYC Pride, and we are honored and humbled to provide this patriotic service to the LGBT community of New York,” said Stacey Sarnicola, Brooklyn chapter lead, Scouts for Equality. “Since 1978, the BSA has held a policy that excluded gay youth and parents. While the BSA voted last year to end the policy barring gay youth from participation, it has made no change in its membership policy regarding adults. The Greater New York Councils’ inclusive policy is what gave me permission to allow my son to join the Boy Scouts. It’s what gives us permission to march, and it gives us hope for a BSA for all in the near future.”
“For more than a century, Scouting has shaped the leaders of tomorrow, instilling in countless young men the values of honesty, courage, and respect for everyone – values that fly in the face of the BSA’s ban on gay adults,” said Seth Adam, Director of Communications at GLAAD. “That local Scouts will now be leading one of the world’s most iconic LGBT Pride events is a testament to both how far we’ve come and how far we have left to go in the pursuit of full equality. Until gay and lesbian adults and parents can partake in their own children’s lives through Scouting, the Boy Scouts will continue to fall behind a rapidly growing majority of Americans, who agree that no one should be discriminated against because of who they love.”
Among those carrying flags will be:
Greater New York Councils’ Position:
According to a statement from the BSA’s Greater New York Councils (GNYC), in its 104-year history the GNYC’s administration has never denied membership to a youth or adult due to sexual orientation. GNYC says:
“We believe that the right, moral, forward-looking policy for the BSA nationwide is to have an inclusive policy that welcomes all to our program, without regard to sexual orientation. We strongly believe that both gay adults and youth must be welcomed in Scouting.”
Under this mandate, Brooklyn Scouts for Equality invites all regional Scouts, Scouters, alumnus, and families – Cubs, Scouts, Ventures, and Explorers – to join the march on June 29 in their Scout uniforms, supporting the beginning of a fully-inclusive, national BSA. To sign up, click here.
Since 1978, the BSA has held a policy that excluded gay youth and parents from participating in the program. On May 23rd, 2013, more than 1,200 members of the BSA National Council voted to end the organization’s policy barring gay youth from participation. Gay and lesbian leaders are still barred from participating.
In remarks delivered at the BSA National Annual Meeting on May 22, 2014, newly appointed president of the BSA, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, stated that while he supports allowing gay adults in Scouting, he will “oppose any effort to re-open” debate on the issue. Gates also emphasized, however, that the role of the BSA National headquarters should be to support local Councils, rather than become “a thorn in their side” – a vision that some hope could provide local Councils with license to determine their own policies on gay leadership.
GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her 7-year-old’s Cub Scout pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s Change.org petition attracted more than 350,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and adult leaders.
More than two million people have joined Change.org petition campaigns since Tyrrell launched her first petition. Since that day, advocacy efforts and successful petition campaigns have recruited two Boy Scout board members – AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley – to denounce the national anti-gay policy. GLAAD, together with Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality Zach Wahls, have also used Change.org petitions to pressure corporate donors such as the Intel Foundation and the UPS Foundation to pull funding until the Boy Scouts ends its policy banning gay youth and parents. In 2012, a Bay Area mother named Karen Andresen petitioned her local Boy Scout council to honor her son Ryan with an Eagle Award that was denied to him when the Scout came out as gay. An official Eagle Board Board of Review unanimously approved Ryan’s application for Eagle, but a Boy Scout executive ultimately rejected his application.