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Sadly, red herrings and straw men seem to be substance for some in this debate. For instance, raising issues like church participation is not comparative to the BSA GMC problem; the churches have the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to fall back to, as though the First Amendment wasn't enough.
The time for playing the blame game is now over. The event has passed and so too has the time for sulking over perceived sleights. The mayor has said in an July 3 Times-Argus Op-Ed that now is the "time to step back and look for ways to come together." He acknowledges that the BSA GMC voted against the national policy to exclude gay and lesbian adults from leadership roles in the BSA. But mere votes against a vile, discriminatory policy, "as crafted by a small, unelected committee more concerned with avoiding criticism than with following the principles of the Scout Oath and Law” of a "resolution limiting inclusion to only youth" are not enough.
One Scout leader said "'it became apparent that there was a hidden agenda here' and that the city council was an [irony alert!] 'obviously biased group.'" That mention of "a hidden agenda" peaked my curiosity so I did a little research and found that the Scout leader who said that has a years long conflict with the city over the use of the city's Berlin Pond water source that raises serious questions about her role as a Scout leader committed to real conservation, as is required by the Scout Outdoor Code. In short, she stands ready to challenge what she believes is an unjust law that impedes her recreation, all at the expense of the public good, while taking an essentially weak stand against a truly discriminatory policy.
My question still remains, "If I'd been to the meeting my sole question would likely have been does the BSA GMC, in the event that an Eagle does "tell," intend to follow national policy and expel that Scout at his eighteenth birthday and why, if so, would that be the right thing to do?"
Councils like that of the Nashua Valley in Massachusetts have responded to the national policy with open defiance, allowing every parent regardless of sexual orientation to participate in their son's scouting life. Will BSA GMC commit to do the same? This is a valid question that goes to the heart of the mayor's and the city council's position and is a question the BSA GMC should answer whether they ever intend to participate in a Montpelier event again or not. Vermonters have a right to know if the BSA GMC is a discriminatory organization by way of acceptance of the national policy and avoidance of such a question is not consistent with the principles of the Scout Oath and Law, as in, "to live your life with honesty,"
What seems to be getting forgotten is that there is a valid question as it pertains to local BSA Green Mountain Council policy regarding discriminatory policies maintained by the national organization and, thus, possibly locally.
Referring to a policy, as has been reported, by local leadership as "don't ask, don't tell" is deeply offensive and quite discriminatory. The mayor and city council have a reasonable concern as elected representatives of all the community, and in the capitol of Vermont, to make certain that official sanction is not given to groups that discriminate. Might that issue have been raised in a better fashion? It's too late to ask because one side isn't speaking. If I'd been to the meeting my sole question would likely have been does the BSA GMC, in the event that an Eagle does "tell," intend to follow national policy and expel that Scout at his eighteenth birthday and why, if so, would that be the right thing to do?
This past weekend it was my honor to lead the 44th annual Pride March in NYC. I had been one of the four original proponents and organizers of that first Pride march in 1970.
Just as I was leaving for New York last week, I learned of the conflict that had arisen in Montpelier. I have to admit some confusion since my position in the march was to directly precede the NY area BSA Council's Scouts for Equality color guard and contingent. The NY area scouts were participating in defiance of the national BSA policy pertaining to scouts appearing at Pride events in uniform.
One of my strongest memories from this year's NYC Pride march will have been hearing the thunderous cheers that echoed off the canyon walls of Fifth Avenue, 8th Street and, finally, on Christopher Street as the scout color guard passed.
So, I find myself disappointed with the VT scouts position and the resulting conflict. I don't know whose idea it was to refer to the VT scouts position as like "don't ask, don't tell" but if that is true, it is a sad misunderstanding of how offensive that phrase is to the LGBTQ community. A second-class, separate but not equal status is not what the scouts in NY marched for on Sunday and I would hope for better in its relationship with the national BSA organization's discriminatory policy from VT's own scout council. I would also hope for more effort to reach out to the VT scouts on the part Montpelier's city government to reconcile this matter.