Only two percent of all Boy Scouts achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. It's a lot of work: you can only earn an Eagle Scout medal and badge after some twenty other merit badges and an ambitious community service project. Those who collect these silver eagles dangling from a red, white, and blue ribbon enjoy advantages, both spoken and unspoken: college scholarships or perhaps a resume that rises to the top of the pile. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the treasured prize, but there's a movement afoot to send them back to Boy Scouts HQ in protest.
Last Thursday, Martin Cizmar of Williamette, Oregon penned a letter to the Scout bosses in Irving Texas to voice his vehement opposition to their policy banning gay scouts and scout leaders. The Scouts early last week had officially reaffirmed their position after "a confidential two year review," a position that has remained controversial since the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld it in 2000. Cizmar's letter pinballed around social media, where I read it. It says, in part:
I am not gay. However, I cannot in good conscience hold this badge as long as BSA continues a policy of bigotry. Though I didn't know it at the time, I was acquainted with a number of gay scouts and scouters. They were all great men, loyal to the scout oath and motto and helpful to the movement. There is no fair reason why they should not be allowed to participate in scouting. I suspect you know this too.
I don't want to be an eagle scout if a young man who is gay can't be one too. Gentlemen, please do the right thing.
Cizmar's simple act of defiance lit a fire under several other Eagle Scouts and now the medals are beginning to pile up down there in Irving, Texas. There's Christopher Baker: "It is a stain on the otherwise exceptional reputation of the Boy Scouts of America. You and the current leadership at the national level should 'be prepared' for significant fall-out from this decision." There's Leo A.P. Giannini: "I don’t want to have my son or daughter one day say to me, 'Did you know you were a member when the Boy Scouts used to not allow gay people to join?'" There's Peter Straub and Rob Tornoe and Matthew Hitchens, and the list is growing.
The Scouts' marketing logo is "Prepared for Life." Really? How does fostering a peer group without a diversity of sexual orientations prepare young men for life? The Girl Scouts of America have given up their homophobic ways, but the Boy Scouts of America are swiftly becoming out of step with broad cultural shifts and its own elite may very well lead the charge to end the bigotry. It's time for you high profile Eagle Scouts to start sending your medals back too. Stephen Spielberg, we're looking at you. When you're ready, here's the address.