As Defense secretary and director of the CIA, Robert Gates learned many lessons about accepting political realities, even when he would rather have done something else. Now, as president of the Boy Scouts of America, Gates is trying to teach that lesson to supporters of his organization who do not want to allow homosexuals to take leadership roles with the Scouts.
In a speech at the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting in Atlanta last week, Gates said the group's ban on gay Scoutmasters cannot last without endangering the future of the organization.
“I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement,” Gates said.
Scouting leaders are coming to realize that courts are likely to force a change in the rules that discriminate against gay men. Even if judges do not act, shifting public opinion will drain Scouts of support and members in many communities. In more and more places, gay is OK.
Still, there are those freaked-out folks who erroneously equate homosexuality with pedophilia. That’s a wild misunderstanding that must be confronted, but getting past the fear that a gay Scoutmaster would be predisposed to prey on boys is probably less difficult than dealing with the many traditionalist religious organizations who are stakeholders in Scouting. Their reading of the Bible says homosexuality is a sin and, therefore, they believe a gay man is not a fit role model.
Biblically speaking, of course, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s desires, so it could be argued that a gay leader is no less worthy than a straight man. Such theological rumination is beside the point, though. It is the Constitution of the United States that applies here and that document mandates that all law-abiding citizens are to be treated the same. Even discrimination based on old texts and long-standing biases will no longer go unchallenged. This is the new reality. Gates knows it and recalcitrant elements in the Scouting world are going to have to adjust to it.
Millions of boys through many generations have learned invaluable life lessons from the Boy Scouts of America. This will be just one more important lesson to put in their backpacks.