July 25, 2012
To Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive and the BSA National Executive Board,
Today I join other Eagle Scouts across the country in renouncing my ties to the Boy Scouts of America and returning my Eagle Scout badge.
I recently moved back to Seattle - where I spent 8 years as a member of Troop 15 and became an Eagle Scout in 1995 – and being here has brought me nostalgia for the joy and learning of my Scouting experience. The hikes in the North Cascades and Olympic mountains, the weekly meetings filled with unique friendships, the lessons learned with each merit badge I earned and each Eagle Scout project I contributed to. I eventually became one of the elders in my troop, staying on as Junior Assistant Scoutmaster and teaching new members in the troop the skills I had learned as a young Scout. These are things I am proud of.
I am not proud to be affiliated with an organization that excludes people based on their sexuality. Many of my closest friends are gay, lesbian or transgender and it pains me to think that I invested time in an organization that prohibits their membership. It’s a shameful, bigoted policy, plain and simple.
I now have a son with a disability who uses a wheelchair. I am humbled by the legacy of the disability rights movement, which challenged bias and brought more accessibility and dignity to people like my son; and I am humbled by other struggles like the civil rights movement, the feminist and gay liberation movements. It gives me strength to know that people have fought for and won battles against our society’s most pernicious forms of prejudice, in the same way that it appalls me that the Boy Scouts remain on the wrong side of history. I’m sending in my badge to be on the right side; I know that eventually the LGBT rights movement will win out, and I want to do my part.
In truth I should have returned my badge more than a decade ago when the Supreme Court ridiculously ruled that the BSA had the right to exclude people based on sexual orientation. I had thought, like many others, that efforts at reform from the inside would lead to a change in course. But the recent decision by the BSA to uphold that policy makes it clear that bigotry has been institutionalized and that there is no longer any hope for change. The power of fundamentalist, anti-gay, religious institutions over the BSA has been too much for even a well-crafted citizens campaign to overcome.
So I am attaching my Eagle Scout badge and certificate and sending them back to the Boy Scout headquarters. Others have already taken this step and many more will join. And hopefully someday a new organization will be born that not only gives young boys (and girls) the opportunity to hike and explore the outdoors, but also teaches them to respect and love other people, regardless of how our society choses to classify them.
Michael Burke Stansbury