The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted Thursday to lift a century-old ban on openly gay scouts. More than 60 percent of the group's National Council, comprised of some 1,400 delegates, voted in favor of ending the ban, which will take effect January 1, 2014.
Even though the prohibition of openly gay adult leaders remains in place, this is a historic day for scouts, both gay and straight alike. Scouts learn to accept others, regardless of race, culture, religion or sexual preference. This will teach the boys to practice what is preached.
About 70 percent of the group's 100,000 Boy Scout units are chartered by faith-based organizations. One of the major turning points in the debate came earlier this year when the Mormon Church - the largest sponsor of scouting troops nationwide - expressed support for ending the ban. The Mormon Church charters nearly 38,000 scout troops representing nearly a quarter million scouts.
The next largest faith-based sponsor is the United Methodist Church, which charters about 11,000 troops representing about 363,000 scouts. They, too, issued a statement supporting an end to the ban. The Catholic Church, which sponsors about 8,400 troops, has taken no official position on the controversy.
"Our vision is to serve every kid and give them a place where they grow up and feel protected," BSA President Wayne Perry told a news conference. "Our view is that kids are better off in scouting."
BSA's long-standing ban on gay scouts had become a polarizing issue at the center of the debate on gay rights in the United States, where gay soldiers may now serve openly in the military and where gay couples can wed in a number of states (a few weeks ago, Minnesota became the 12th state to allow same-sex couples to marry).
Even overseas, plans to legalize gay marriage in England and Wales are proceeding in Parliament. Also, France officially became the 14th country to legalize open love last Saturday morning when President Francois Hollande signed the country's "marriage for all" act into law.
For supporters of gay rights, there have been a lot of positive changes happening in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. But the flapping of criticism that has been circling these events squawked out in a horrific way Tuesday afternoon.
Dominique Venner, an award-winning far-right historian, walked up to the altar of Notre-Dame de Paris and shot himself in the mouth with a single-shot pistol. He did this in front of some 1,500 visitors. Just hours earlier, Venner had bitterly criticized the same-sex marriage act (specifically in France) on his blog. He wrote about the failure of peaceful mass protests to prevent the passage of the marriage law and talked of "new, spectacular and symbolic gestures to wake up the sleep walkers and shake the anaesthetized consciousness."
His death sharply divided opinion on social media in France. On Twitter, most of the comments appeared to be negative, with some dismissing his suicide as an act of "terrorism" or labeling him a "Nazi." Others expressed admiration, with one describing him as a patriot who had died "for his fatherland and its lost values."
Personally, I think this "political" act to "wake up the people of France," as said by Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front, was a ridiculously selfish event. Although it did certainly wake up people to the extremity of hate in the world. My hope is that this event doesn't intimidate supporters. But rather propels them forward on their mission to let people love openly.
Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to
or view her Web site at www.SarahTSchwab.com