On Super Bowl Sunday, President Obama told CBS' Scott Pelley that the Boy Scouts of America should end its ban on gays. Today, BSA board members decided to table a vote on whether the group should lift that ban, saying in a statement that "the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy." The board will now vote on the measure in May, potentially bringing an end to the century-old BSA's longstanding and bullshit rule preventing gay boys from becoming scouts and gay men from becoming scout leaders. Alas, if and when that vote ever does come to pass, it's important to remember that the BSA doesn't actually intend to fully "end" anything.
All of this is largely a copout, and, funnily enough, it's a copout used by President Obama himself.
The dispiriting truth behind the proposed integration of the Boy Scouts is that it's not a serious integration at all. If ended, the gay ban would only be ended nationally, allowing individual Boy Scout troops to continue refusing to accept gays into their folds if they so choose. And it appears as if many would keep the ban alive: At a "Save Our Scouts" rally this morning at the BSA national headquarters in Texas, dozens of scouts and their parents turned out show their support for keeping the Boy Scouts "morally straight."
In essence, the BSA has heard the criticism of its bigoted rules and it has decided to—maybe, possibly—respond to that criticism by one day voting to wash its hands of the matter and letting specific troops and troop leaders themselves continue to be bigots.
If this sounds familiar, that's because it's the same tack President Obama took last year to respond to questions about his stance on gay marriage. Forced to address those queries after Vice President Joe Biden said publicly that he supports same-sex nuptials, the president said that while he personally supports gay marriage, he also believes states should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to allow the practice. It was a weak-ass equivocation, and Gawker's John Cook said as much at the time:
Equality is not a state-by-state issue. There is no reason other than ignorance and hatred that two men can get married in New York and not North Carolina. At a time when vindictive hucksters are rolling out anti-gay marriage amendments across the nation, and when conflicting state and federal laws portend an insoluble morass of divorce, custody, and estate issues, and when gay Americans are turning to the U.S. Constitution and the courts to seek an affirmation of their humanity, "it's a state-by-state issue" is a shameful dodge.
If the BSA ever does get around to a vote that will "end" its ban on gays, it will be a semblance of progress, but it won't at all reflect the values of "bravery" and "friendliness" for which the Boy Scouts claim to stand. It will be an artful evasion, an artful evasion they learned from the best: the commander in chief.
A few weeks ago, Barack Obama became the first president in American history to broach the subject of gay rights in his inaugural address, leading some to believe he is changing his mind about same-sex marriage being an issue for the states. But hinting at ideas is not manifesting change, and until our nation's most powerful leader gets serious about letting gays get married, regardless of what individual states want to do, we can't be surprised when the BSA does what's become the American thing and continues passing the buck on gay rights.
Image by Jim Cooke.