Skip to main content

Boy Scouts, time to end discrimination

By Herndon Graddick, Special to CNN
September 27, 2012 -- Updated 2018 GMT (0418 HKT)
Herndon Graddick
Herndon Graddick
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Boy Scouts of America is not granting membership to gays and lesbians
  • Herndon Graddick: The organization's policy is a travesty
  • He says the BSA has prided itself on building tomorrow's leaders
  • Graddick: How can it do so with a discriminatory policy toward its members?

Editor's note: Herndon Graddick is the president of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

(CNN) -- Jennifer Tyrrell and her family went to the headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America in Irving, Texas, to deliver a petition of 300,000 signatures asking the organization to end its ban on gay Scouts and gay Scout leaders.

The BSA's policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals" is a travesty.

It led to the dismissal of Jennifer, who was the den leader of her own 7-year-old son's troop in Bridgeport, Ohio. By reaffirming its anti-gay policy, the BSA is telling the entire nation that maintaining its legacy of discrimination is more important to them than strengthening the bond between a mother and her son.

The BSA clearly has its priorities backwards. In spite of calls for change from its own board members, from high-profile Eagle Scouts and from Americans of all stripes, it refuses to budge. Other organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and even the U.S. Armed Forces, have put an end to such discrimination.

It might not be easy for an organization to admit it is wrong. Especially since the BSA has had this policy for decades; it has even gone all the way to the Supreme Court to try to preserve it.

But just because you have a right to discriminate doesn't mean it is right to discriminate.

Gay teen stripped of Eagle Scout honors
Boy Scouts dismiss gay den mother

No matter how much the organization digs in its heels, it has to acknowledge that Tyrell's story is widely accessible to the American people. And it isn't only Jennifer and her son who are affected by the policy.

Parents in Bridgeport are angry that the BSA has put them in the position where they had to explain to their children why their favorite den leader would not be allowed back. Parents should not have to explain to their children why their favorite after-school activity discriminates against their friends and their friends' families.

Over the past few months, I've gotten to know Jennifer very well. Her eyes light up when she speaks about her time with her son's troop. I've seen those same eyes well with tears when she recounts what the BSA did to her, simply because she is who she is. Her son, Cruz, is going to grow into a remarkable young man. But right now, he's a young boy who had been told for the first time, by an organization he wanted desperately to join, that his family isn't good enough.

Jennifer and Cruz aren't alone in being tremendously hurt by the BSA. There are countless Scouts and Scout leaders living under the fear that they could be kicked out at any moment, simply for being gay or lesbian.

Someday, this won't be the case.

It is inevitable that the BSA will need to change its policy of intolerance. I believe the change will come soon. And the more we continue to speak out, the more we stand beside moms such as Jennifer, the more we demand that discrimination end, the sooner that "someday" will arrive.

If the Boy Scouts of America's aim is to teach children about leadership qualities and moral values, it needs to start by treating the members of its community with fairness and decency. For more than 100 years, the BSA has prided itself on building tomorrow's leaders. But it cannot continue to do so by clinging to yesterday's antiquated and hateful biases. The time to change is now.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Herndon Graddick.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT