Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday Props

I love my adopted city, Philadelphia. I won't go into the reasons in detail right now, but suffice it to say I've never felt more at home in any other place, even the town in which I grew up. And after reading an article in Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer, I am holding my head a little higher, even prouder of my city. Why? Because Mayor John Street is kicking out the Boy Scouts.

The Philadelphia-area Boy Scout council occupies, rent-free, a nice piece of real estate in Center City that is owned by the City of Philadelphia. This arrangement has continued since the late 1920s. In recent years, however, the national Boy Scout organization has reaffirmed its discriminatory policy toward gays. The national Boy Scout organization forbids homosexuals from serving as troop leaders and scouts -- and even litigated the issue all the way to the Supreme Court. The Philadelphia council purported to adopt a nondisciminatory policy toward gays but then shortly thereafter, booted a Boy Scout who was openly gay. Last week, the city of Philadelphia put the Scouts on notice that they would have to either leave the premises or begin paying fair market rent in light of their discriminatory practices:

For several years, we have attempted to convince the Cradle of Liberty Council that its discriminatory policies are untenable and violate express City policy and law. Regrettably, we have been unable to obtain adequate assurances that the Boy Scouts will not, while headquartered on City property, discriminate.


It's hard to pin the Boy Scouts down on exactly why openly gay scouts or scout leaders bother them so much. They talk about gay scouts not making "good role models" for their "traditional values." They talk about a boy scout's pledge to keep himself "clean" -- and if you've ever been on a camping trip where it rains, you can imagine how silly this is. They mention not wanting men with DUI convictions or who are "promiscuous" as role models either. I suppose there are several factors at work here: part of it is the fundamentalist "Christian" (I purposely put the word in quotes) agenda that views homosexuality as a choice, a sinful "lifestyle," rather than a biological fact. I happen to think that sexual preference is something a person is born with, and can't change. Disciminating on the basis of a genetic roll of the dice, a biological imperative, is to me clearly wrong.

I also find the stereotypes and generalizations about gays that the Boy Scouts espouse to be troubling. The Boy Scouts apparently assume that gays don't have "family values"; but the gay parents I know put the lie to this stereotype every day with loving and conscientious care of their children. The Boy Scouts apparently assume that all gays are decadent, sin-loving libertines who want to teach impressionable scouts all kinds of naughty things; my friends who happen to be gay are kind, honest, caring and certainly no more decadent than any heteros I know (many a good deal less). And let's not kid ourselves: isn't underlying all this homophobia an element of "but we can't endanger our kids by leaving them with gay men," an assumption that being gay means you are a pedophile and could only be motivated by a desire to cop a quick feel in between S'Mores on the annual Jamboree? I hope I don't have to point out how utterly offensive that is. (By the way, I hope the Boy Scouts have also established a policy banning tarty, bleached-blond teachers from being scout leaders in light of the Mary Kay LeTourneau affair.)

If you think the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, should have the right to exclude anyone it wants from belonging, then ask yourself this: Would you feel the same way if the Boy Scouts excluded blacks? What if they excluded Roman Catholics? Would you want your tax dollars -- even if the form of foregone rent -- going to an organization that did so?

I don't.

Discrimination -- whether against blacks, Catholics or homosexuals -- is wrong. No decent religion requires it. And I believe our Constitution, frail and under attack as it is, forbids it. Well done, Mayor Street.


28 comments:

Leanne said...

I love hearing stories like this - thanks for posting it. It's nice to know that there are politicians out there who won't stand for blatant discrimintation. It still amazes me that organizations like the Scouts are allowed to get away with this. Another reason why I'm proud to be a Canadian. Scouts Canada has no such policy.

amy! said...

Bravo Mayor Street!

A related anecdote that always makes me smile a little is that gay couples who have been long-time residents of the flamboyant San Francisco Castro District who are now raising families are starting to take offense at the long-established businesses that cater to that flamboyance. These men want the sex shops to tone down their displays because now they push strollers past. Clearly, this shows that they're just as concerned as parents as the straights. Although, to be fair, the gays don't want the businesses to close, just to be a little more family friendly.

Wily Jeneric said...

I commend your city and wish more would follow suit. There are thousands among the boy scout community who are disgusted at this behavior. I know many Eagle Scouts who have relinquished that honor until the boy scouts change their policy.

JJ said...

Yay, Philly!

It really bothers me that so many believe that homosexuality is a choice. Hello?! Who wakes up one morning and DECIDES to live a lifestyle that will make him/her despised and reviled by a (sadly) large portion of the population? One that leads to discrimination and violence? So many of my friends have said they grew up feeling different, even from the earliest conscious memories. This is not a choice, people. This is life.

Carol, thanks again for the uplifting story. It's nice to see stories like this every once in a while.

I just wish it weren't just every once in a while.

Stuntmother said...

Hooray! Hooray! Another reason to love living here. But now I'm worried about that very nice building and what will happen to it.

It must be the heat, getting to me.

Thanks for posting this. It made my morning.

Mindy said...

Thank you, Mayor Street! Thank you, Carol, for posting this.

Molly said...

Damn right. We haven't bought a tree from the Scouts in years, though they're definitely the most convenient. It's all well and good to say, "Well, it's just the broader organization; local boys aren't doing anything wrong," but local boys could be Explorers or something instead.

Thank goodness for the Girl Scouts, who (last I heard) specifically refuse to discriminate based on sexual orientation. I'm happy to buy their cookies, and not just because the thought of an All-About makes my mouth water.

Molly said...

Damn right. We haven't bought a tree from the boy scouts in years, though they're definitely the most convenient.

The Girl Scouts, on the other hand, have (last I heard) specifically included sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy. I'm thrilled to buy cookies every year, and not just because All-Abouts make my mouth water.

Actually, I always like getting a few boxes from the troops that set up tables at 30th St.; Bryn Mawr troops are great, too, but they just don't need the funds the same way.

Jen said...

Yay for Philly having the guts to call a spade a spade! Also, for those of you who are pressured into giving moola to the United Way at work, consider specifying which charity you want your donation to go to if you don't want to support the scouts. With the exception of a few brave chapters here and there, nationwide UW is a huge fundraiser for the scouts. Additionally, the UW is also a big fundraiser for pregnancy "crisis" centers (anti-choice brain-washing centers would be a more apt name). And the UW has a habit of keeping a big cut of the donations they collect to pay their chapter heads. For example, in Louisville (a second tier city which is cheap to live in), the chapter president alone was paid over 175k two years ago. That's why I give money directly to my charity of choice. OK, I'm getting off my soapbox before I slide off and land on my butt...

Carol said...

I've never been comfortable with the whole "give to the United Way at work" thing. I think it's pushy to presume that your employees wish to give to any particular charity (regardless of its merits) and employees may not feel comfortable saying no even if they don't wish to give to that one. I also have this creepy feeling that people with access to the paperwork will be comparing who gives what (am I paranoid?). I'm with you on this one, Jen; give privately and no need to blow one's horn about it.

jillian said...

Very well put! And good for the Mayor too.

It is uplifting to hear that some part of the US not being scary uber-right-wing fundamentalist Christian@

Carol said...

Amen to that. I couldn't have put it any more eloquently. It makes me miss Philly even more...

Deborah C. said...

Good for Mayor Street! I'm glad to hear of ONE politician who isn't afraid to stick up for everyone's rights, no matter how unpopular. I intensely dislike people who think being gay is a "choice", as was so aptly said by JJ. Now if only NYC would follow suit.

Diane said...

What an excellent story. I'm proud of your city too.

Betty said...

The Boy Scouts discriminate against more than just gays. Here where I live, if you're not a member of the Mormon Church, you are not welcome to be a member. They use the Boy Scouts as part of their religious teachings when they get to the age of joining their priesthood (or whatever it is they teach boys - I'm not Mormon) any boy who is not Mormon is not welcome.

Mel said...

The BSA also officially discriminates against agnostics and atheists. Apparently you can't be moral if you don't ascribe to a theistic religion, either. I generally enjoyed what I learned in scouts, even though the straight, redneck (it was South Carolina) dynamic wasn't all that fun. They definitely don't get any of my money these days, though I believe it is possible to earmark donations to the United Way (from whom some Boy Scout councils receive funds) for specific recipients.

Joe said...

Thanks Carol...I didn't read or hear about this until now.

Can you imagine the kind of message it would send a young, questioning, boy/man, who is starting to realize that he's having attraction to other males. He's put in a few years with BSA, and now, not only don't they support him in a terribly confusing time, but they tell him he's not "clean" and doesn't represent the morals of their organization.

That is just hateful.

As for United Way, while you can direct you contributions to a specific charity, why would you contribute to an organization that supports the BSA at all? I NEVER give to United Way, as I find their support of the BSA discriminatory.

Jennie said...

Yeah PHILADELPHIA!

My son recently said he wished he were a girl. I asked him why. He said, "So I could be a Scout!"

*sigh*

I always wanted to be an Eagle Scout. But I just can't stand the thought of giving my money to an organization that actively excludes so many, including myself. (I'd be happy to be a Den Mother, otherwise.)

Mac said...

Note: United Way of Southeastern PA [that's the one in Philly] yanked the Boy Scout's funding about four years ago because of their nondiscrimination policy.

Honestly, I thought Mayor Street had already revoked their lease because they've been talking about it since the Boy Scouts started making such a stink about gay folk and atheists. Who knew?

I noticed during our local Fourth of July parade that the Boy Scouts marched with the Explorer Girls, who seemed pretty hardcore religious. So I guess the Girl Scouts are not the direct alternative to Boy Scouts anymore.

Franklin said...

Well said, ma cherie. Well said.

Gail said...

What I don't get are the folks who say that they are against discrimination, and yet, still have their children belong to the boy scouts. There's one guy at work who tells us every year that the Evanston chapter doesn't discriminate, blahblahblah, but still. It's a discriminatory, hateful organization, and you'd think that otherwise reasonable people wouldn't want to belong.

Anonymous said...

I'm really homesick now...

missmoonbeam said...

I have had it with this 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' attitude about the scouts. It's a great organization that gives many boys positive male role models and skills and experiences they wouldn't otherwise have. My boys have had nothing but wonderful experiences in scouting and our pack does not openly hate anyone. I am sick of this gay propaganda being shoved down my throat. I do not hate gays, it's a part of our society (though a small percentage) and I am okay with it. However, I don't want that lifestyle glamorized on TV in a hugely disportionate number for my kids to see (they're not old enough to understand).
You cannot kill the Boy Scouts organization. Our government will never allow it. It's a precursor organization to the military and whatever policy our military follows regarding sexual orientation and religion, that's what the Boy Scouts will follow. Nothing will change until the military changes.

Carol said...

Well, Miss Moonbeam, no one is killing the Scouts or saying YOUR kids can't join. What I am saying is that tax dollars should not support a discriminatory group. The Boy Scouts can pay fair market rent like any other organization if they are not going to comply with antidiscrimination laws.

I question whether a group that adopts this kind of policy is really that wonderful for boys. Maybe it's wonderful for hetero boys. Or maybe knowing that the kid next door who happened to get a different sexual preference gene ISN'T welcome will continue to breed the intolerance that comes through loud and clear in your post.

I suspect a lot of Germans thought Hitler Youth was just dandy and a great entree into the German military. I wouldn't want my kid to belong there either.

By the way, I happen to think the military's policy is ridiculous and ought to change too. I won't hold my breath for that day, nor will I hold my breath for the Boy Scouts to change even if the military does alter its policy.

I fail to see how you could interpret my post as "gay propaganda being shoved down your throat." All you have to do is click on the Back button to go back to wherever you came from.

I will state categorically that I will not tolerate any homophobia on this blog, explicit or implicit. If you don't like it, don't read it.

Joe said...

Could you and your readers please stop shoving your heterosexuality down my throat? I don't mind folks being breeders, but do you have to be so in-your-face about it and uppity? I'm not a heterophobe, I just don't want your "straight agenda" being promoted so blantantly and glamorized by the so-called metrosexual wannabes.

Loopy said...

Well, missmoonbeam, I consider this a job well done on C's part.

Our motto is "We're not happy until you're not happy."

And, oh boy, do I have a real, live argument to the "boy scout = future military equation. He just got done combing his blazing pink faux mo' and headed for the Y.

brewerburns said...

I was also really happy to hear this story. It pains and saddens me that the boy scouts (I was a girl scout for many years) have chosen to take this discriminatory path. As a direct result I think they should feel the consequences of their actions, one of them being that they can no longer be supported by the government, directly or indirectly.

FugueStateKnits said...

I was so glad to hear of Philly's actions! I was also sad to hear that the BSA has not entered the 21st century. I was in the Girl Scouts when I was very young and loved it, but no organization that discriminates based on religion (or non-religion) and sexual preference should get our hard-earned tax dollars, much less a sweetheart deal on rent from a public entity!
I have my own theory regarding the BSA's paranoia against homosexuals. They are suffering from the same ignorance that many of the leadership of the Catholic Church have in deciding to turn down gay men (who are going to be celibate anyway!) from being priests. The ignorance is essentially this: they don't know the difference between homosexuality and pedophilia. They are both organizations that have suffered greatly from the actions of a few- or many, I don't know - pedophiles in their midst. Because in those organizations much of the pedophilia (although by no means all or a majority in the case of the Catholic Church) has been man on boy, they think that means the men who perpetrated these acts were "gay." They were NOT gay - they were pedophiles. Pedophiles are attracted to children. Homosexual men and women are attracted to other men and women. They do not pose a danger to children. Pedophiles do.
Now simple little me can figure that one out. Why can't the BSA or the Catholic heirarchy? They both have a history of great intelligence. Let's hope that they return to their respective senses.
And lest anyone think I'm anti-Catholic. I'm absolutely not. I have a great love for many Catholics (my husband is one) and greatly respect the many true saints and intellects that come from that tradition. I just think they're dead wrong on this issue and a few others.
My 2 cents- thanks,
Joan