WASHINGTON — A month after voting to allow gay youth to participate in the Boy Scouts, the group’s leadership warned scouts this week that participating in gay pride parades in uniform — even if just to participate in a flag ceremony — is against “longstanding policy.”
In the June 24 memorandum obtained by BuzzFeed, Gary Butler, the assistant chief Scout executive for operations, told all Scout executives and area and regional directors that “members of the BSA are not permitted to be endorsing a position or advancing a social issue while they are in uniform.”
“From time to time, Scouts and leaders have been asked or encouraged to participate in flag ceremonies, parades, and other community events aimed at advocating for personal, social or political agendas,” Butler said, warning that doing so in uniform is a “violation of the Scout Oath and Scout Law [and] a violation of BSA’s rules and regulations.”
“Participation in a Gay Pride parade or other similarly sponsored event would fall under this policy.”
Zach Wahls, the founder of Scouts for Equality, noted a distinction between marching in a pride parade and participating in a flag ceremony, but as to the latter, he was incredulous of the Boy Scouts’ position.
“Scouts do color guards for political events all the time,” Wahls said. “You regularly see Boy Scouts in uniform doing flag ceremonies for candidates.”
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which has been heavily involved in supporting advocates of inclusive Scouting, called the move “worrisome” Friday — pointing to Boy Scouts’ regular participation in ethnic heritage parades, such at St. Patrick’s Day parades, as an uneven application of the “longstanding” policy.
“It is worrisome that after the Boy Scouts’ membership voted to allow gay Scouts just last month, one of the organization’s first actions is an attempt to dissociate the BSA with celebrations for the gay community. The Boy Scouts should not force the countless number of allies who support gay Americans and are proud BSA Members to be silent about their Scouting identity,” GLAAD vice president of communications Rich Ferraro told BuzzFeed.
“The move last month was a good step, but changing internal culture is going to be a much longer process,” Wahls added.
A Scouting spokesman did not respond to BuzzFeed’s request for comment.