If you want to learn how to measure the vast distance between “tolerance” and “acceptance,” join the Boy Scouts. Today, 61% of 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council voted to “remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone.” Before you start writing “thank you” letters though, read on. The official statement, released this afternoon continues, “A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place.”
Homophobia is most dangerous when it has a good editor. What makes the BSA’s statement so galling is how it deftly attempts to sidestep the blatant hatred and disdain of gay people packed in between the lines. Instead of sending a clear message that all boys, gay, straight and in-between, should be embraced as well as introduced to the kinds of role models BSA is in the business of fashioning, the organization’s National Council has chosen instead to further the idea that gay adults are pariahs and pedophiles.
And so, Boy Scouts can come out as long as they have no desire, at the age of eighteen, to become role models themselves. That’s just about as logical as Canada’s recent decision to end its anti-gay blood donation ban: gay men can donate blood there now, as long as they haven’t had sex with another man in the last five years. In both cases, the subtext is that gay people, ultimately, are dirty – innately and unforgivably. We will be tolerated but not, at least for now, truly welcome.