An Old Knot, Untied?
For more than 20 years, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has resisted pressure to rescind its 102-year-old ban on gay members. On Jan. 28, the 2.7 million-member organization said it may finally change its controversial stance.
The BSA reaffirmed its anti-gay position as recently as July, on the unanimous vote of a special committee that cited the support of Scout parents for the ban. But a large and sophisticated protest campaign has targeted the Boy Scouts ever since. More than 200 Eagle Scouts have returned their badges and posted resignation letters online. Over 3,400 others have joined the Scouts for Equality movement, founded by marriage-equality advocate and Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, who also organized an online-petition campaign targeting the Scouts' corporate sponsorship. UPS Inc., the Intel Foundation and the Merck Company Foundation pulled a total of $850,000 in response to the protest. Other petitions urged two Scouts executive-board members--James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young, and AT&T chief Randall Stephenson--to push for change from within. Rallied by a group of high-profile Scouts and their families, more than 1 million people signed the petitions.
Why the change? Activists say the Boy Scouts may feel vulnerable at a time of declining membership and more sensitive to charges of discrimination now that groups like the Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, 4-H clubs and the military welcome gay members. (The conservative Family Research Council, meanwhile, decried the "strong-arm tactics of LGBT activists.")
Even if the Scouts' executive board lifts the ban at its February meeting, the BSA will likely allow local chapters to decide whether to admit gay members and leaders. That has gay-rights advocates vowing to fight on. "It's a half step, not the whole step," argues Eric Andresen, who says his son is being denied his Eagle Scout badge because he is gay. "Ultimately they should do away with discrimination altogether."
All Together Now?
Hailing it as a breakthrough, a bipartisan group of eight Senators unveiled a broad proposal to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, beef up border security and create a "tough but fair" route to citizenship for undocumented residents. President Obama embraced the outlines of the package and called for Congress to act on it. But as history proves, the path from blueprint to bill will be tricky.
The bipartisan bill, signed by President Reagan after five years of work by both parties, grants legal status, or amnesty, to millions of undocumented immigrants
Despite President George W. Bush's support, the two Senators' push stalls amid criticism that it would reward immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally
2010: The Dream Act
Republican Senators thwart the Dream Act, a measure backed by Obama and Democrats like Dick Durbin, designed to offer legal residency to some offspring of undocumented immigrants
Strange Brews in the Labs of Democracy