The Boy Scout Gay Dilemma

Although one member of the local board of directors for the Chief Cornplanter Council opposes lifting the ban on gays – which may happen today as the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America debates the situation in Texas – he believes it will do little to change the face of Boy Scouting in Warren County.

Jim Marshall, a member of the local board, acknowledges the difficulty of the debate.

“That’s a tough one,” he said. “But under those circumstances, if they do (lift the ban), I’m personally going to be quite disappointed.”

“I take my oath quite seriously … On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country,” Marshall said, “and that doesnt leave much room. That’s pretty clear cut. I don’t think (homosexuality) belongs in the Scout program” where we are “building the characters of young boys and in many cases, girls (as in Explorers). I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

Marshall, an Eagle Scout who has been in the Boy Scouts of America for 56 years, is, however, confident that any change will not challenge the direction of the local council.

“I don’t think it will change the direction our council is going,” Marshall said, if the ban is lifted. “Those institutions that sponsor will have the right to choose who the leaders are, and our community is not going to go along with that in my personal opinion.”

Local Scout executive Kevin Bonner indicated that he was reserving judgement.

“I don’t get wound up about any ‘proposed’ anything,” he said. “There’s no sense in it. Nor do I have an opinion on anything ‘proposed.’ We’ll just wait and see what the national executive board ultimately decides and take it from there.”

Brent Scarpo, a native of Warren and a former Scout who now lives in Palm Springs, California, is adamantly opposed to the ban on gays in the Boy Scouts. He likens the ban to genocide, discrimination against blacks, the internment of the Japanese during WWII and women not being allowed to vote.

“If we do not lift the ban on gays in the Boy Scouts, then you might as well turn back history and forget that we were once incredibly ignorant and actually believed that segregation against those who are different was both legal and morally responsible,” Scarpo explained.

Warren native Quinn Brant – an Eagle Scout – agrees.

“I too believe that intolerance is bred from ignorance and fear,” said Brant, who now lives in Seattle, Washington.

“I feel that excluding people due to their orientation is much like excluding them based on their color; sad, hurtful, unfair. It is high time that the BSA realizes that it is sadly mired in the past and needs to rid itself of the old coat that it wears for the sake of the hundreds (thousands, likely) of gay scouts and their families out there,” Brant explained.

“Not all scout leaders will like this move, just like not all citizens enjoyed when women got the vote, or African Americans,” he said.

Brant explained the struggle for gay people when they have to hide who they are.

“I was conflicted about my sexuality in the time that I was in scouts; I had to hide who and what I was in order to survive the mid-80s rural Pennsylvania mentality, and while I knew to the core of my being that I was gay, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was unacceptable to the scouting group and society (sadly) at large.”

“Men in this country are frankly scared to discuss emotions of resonance or sexuality, and talk such as this remains difficult, and as a result, the source of mockery and jokes, and worse,” Brant explained. “This fear of baring one’s soul, of talking of matters of import, of showing who and what you are goes largely against what the ideal American Man is supposed to be, and Scouting has fallen into this rigid lockstep along with so many other organizations.”

Brant is hopeful that the ban will be lifted today, but believes, now that the discussion has begun, if it doesn’t happen today, it will happen soon.

“Change is difficult but it happens,” he said.

“The ban ought be dropped for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it is frankly unconstitutional,” Brant added. And, “it is laughable to think that allowing gays into organizations is dangerous or detrimental to others. People fear what they don’t know.”

Brant still lives the Scout oath. “Kindness to others, gentility, friendliness,” he said. “Almost all of the tenets of scouting I hold dear because I know personally how it feels to be on the receiving end of their opposites.”