The Boy Scouts of America have pushed back the decision on lifting their national, anti-gay ban until May 2013.
Zach Wahls, a 21-year old LGBT activist and Eagle Scout from Iowa City, agrees with the decision to wait until May. “I think they needed more time,” Wahls said.
“We were all caught off guard by their decision to rethink it at all. The amount of outpour and feedback that was received required them to take more time.”
Wahls became a well-known activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual community after he addressed the Iowa House Judiciary Committee on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Iowa. Within weeks, his YouTube video had more than 1.5 million views.
In January, the BSA announced the decision to reconsider lifting the anti-gay ban. The organization said the 102-year-old policy could be reversed in as little as two weeks.
While this may have instilled false hope in BSA families, Wahls agreed with their decision to make this known to the public.
“It was important even if that timeline was unreasonable,” Wahls said. “A lot of people are definitely hurt because of the delay, but people needed to know.”
The Boy Scouts of America released a statement on the matter on Wednesday night.
“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy."
Wahls wants college students to understand how impacting whatever decision the Boy Scouts of America makes is. “To people our age, it may not be seen as such a huge victory,” Wahls said.
“A decade ago, the Supreme Court said it was illegal to be gay, and my own parents could have been arrested. The [Boy Scouts of America] is a truly great, cultural institution. If the ban is overturned, this would be a massive step forward.”
Wahls has an organization called Scouts for Equality and has been putting a lot of pressure “behind the scenes” on the Boy Scouts of America to get this ban lifted.
One issue Wahls addressed specifically is people having to hide their sexuality if the ban does not get overturned.
Many corporate sponsors of the Boy Scouts of America have pulled their large, monetary donations due to the Boy Scouts of America's discriminatory policies.
Intel, the largest corporate donor, halted support in September 2012, and the United Postal Service Foundation followed suit in November 2012. Both institutions concluded that funding an organization that was discriminatory based on sexual orientation was against their own policy.
Both of these decisions came after Wahls initiated petitions to stop the funding. The first petition for Intel to stop funding reached more than 30,000 signatures, and the second petition aimed at the UPS Foundation reached more than 75,000 signatures.
“Scouts and Scout families are being forced into the closet because they are not allowed to be a part of this great institution if they don’t hide who they truly are,” Wahls said.
President Barack Obama and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney both disagree with the Boy Scouts of America’s current policy. Obama released a statement early last week encouraging the Boy Scouts of America to reverse the anti-gay policy.
The decision the Boy Scouts of America makes will decide whether or not each Scouting's chartered group may set its own standards regarding gay members and leaders.
The different religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout units would be able to decide for themselves how to address the issue.
If the Boy Scouts of America overturns this ban, and church sponsored groups elect to not allow gay members in, there are other options.
Joseph Wandrei, Eagle Scout and ISU student, said that while most Scout troops do meet at a church, there are “other options, such as public schools and community centers, that would be a good spot to meet.”
The current Boy Scouts of America’s official position on homosexuality reads, "Homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed."
The Boy Scouts of America announced last June they would review the proposal to amend the national anti-gay ban but had no intention of changing it. An announcement to reconsider was given just seven months later.