Back in 2015, the Boy Scouts of America organization officially ended its blanket ban on gay participants in an effort to accord with the spirit of the Obergefell Supreme Court decision, which, at the time, had just effectively legalized gay marriage throughout the United States. Now in 2022, some members of a Seattle-area BSA unit have participated in a local pride parade celebration.
On Sunday, young scouts joined the annual Seattle Pride parade, carrying a mix of American and rainbow pride flags to demonstrate their support for the local LGBTQ+ community. Breitbart reports that the scouts may have even been the first group to march in the parade, leading a series of LGBTQ+-affiliated groups that also included ardent pro-abortion advocates and even some naked male cyclists.
The scouts’ participation in the pride event indicates that BSA has veered sharply away from its Christian roots and toward more secular values. Just a decade ago, BSA was embroiled in controversy for excluding gay scouts and scout leaders. Many local chapters were chartered with religious organizations, which often forbade homosexuality, as well as all extramarital sexual acts.
That all changed after Obergefell. Citing that “sea change in the law with respect to gay rights,” National BSA Executive Board members voted overwhelmingly in July 2015 to end the organization’s ban on gay members. In early 2017, BSA began allowing transgender male youth into boys-only programs, and the rule banning biological girls from joining Cub Scouts was jettisoned later that year. As a result of these membership changes, Boy Scouts of America officially rebranded itself as “Scouts BSA” in February 2019.
Many foresaw this evolution in BSA membership and values when former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was named president of BSA in 2014. Gates is largely credited with undoing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that governed the United States military for 17 years. In 2015, Gates described the BSA ban on homosexual participants as “unsustainable.”
Despite this seismic shift toward LGBTQ+ “diversity and inclusion,” BSA still retains a faith-based identity. All scouts and scout leaders are required to subscribe to the Scout Oath, which still pledges loyalty to God and country and requires each pledger to “keep myself morally straight.” Straight here makes no reference to sexual orientation. Rather it implies that scouts adhere to the Scout Law, which among other things, requires reverence toward God, fulfilling “religious duties,” and respecting the religious beliefs of others.
And at least in principle, Scouts BSA permits local units, which may be affiliated with religious organizations, to establish their own membership criteria. They may even exclude openly gay scout leaders, a move that BSA says “respects the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
But for now, if such traditional units still exist, they remain in the shadows. Meanwhile the BSA members who participated in the Seattle Pride parade have gone viral on social media, and Seattle Pride has even included a picture of the group on its homepage. Fair or unfair, the scouts in the pride parade have become the current face of Scouts BSA, even as membership numbers continue to decline.