Hundreds of Texas Boy Scouts poured into Austin this past weekend for their annual Report to State event. In a meeting in the Texas State House of Representatives, they announced their delegation’s accomplishments, and enjoyed an address by Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry used the opportunity to assert his anti-gay agenda by encouraging the Boy Scouts organization to try to stick to their anti-gay policies in the wake of mounting criticism and calls to change.
The Boy Scouts organization reaffirmed its anti-gay policy seven months ago, but a proposal to soften their stance on gay members and Scout leaders is expected to be addressed and voted on at this week’s meeting of the Boy Scouts national executive board. On Monday, Scouts delivered 1.4 millions signatures to the Irving, Texas Boy Scouts headquarters demanding an end to the anti-gay policy.
Perry credits Boy Scouts as his reason for joining the U.S. Air Force, and later, for running for public office. Perry boldly said that society’s failure to follow the core values of the Boy Scouts was the cause for high teen pregnancy rates and “wayward” youth who become “men joining their fathers in prison.”
In a press conference following his address to the Boy Scouts, Perry expressed his hopes for the future of Boy Scouts. (Dallas Morning News)
“Hopefully the board will follow their historic position of keeping the Scouts strongly supportive of the values that make Scouting this very important and impactful organization. I think most people see absolutely no reason to change the position and neither do I,” Perry said.
Perry averted the question of whether or not he would feel differently about the organization if they change their anti-gay policy. He did add that for the organization to “have popular culture impact 100 years of their standards is inappropriate.”
Perry said that he disagrees that accepting members who aren’t strictly heterosexual will make the Boy Scouts organization more tolerant.
“I think you get tolerance and diversity every day in Scouting.”
Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, responded to Perry’s old-fashioned values.
“It’s a shame that Governor Perry has chosen to be on the wrong side of history. Governor Perry and the Boy Scouts are both completely out of touch with where America is going on this issue,” he said “There should be one national, non-discrimination policy. We can’t quite wrap our heads around why that is so difficult to do in 2013.”
Perry actually wrote a book in 2008 about his experience as an Eagle Scout. In On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, Perry said that he doesn’t ”believe the teaching of sexual preference fits within the parameters of Scouting’s mission,” but it’s evident that he does want to keep gay-ness as far away from the Boy Scouts as possible.
“Because gay activism is central to their lives, it would unavoidably be a topic of conversation within a Scout troop. This would distract from the mission of Scouting: character building, not sex education,” he wrote.
Perry claimed that profits from the sale of his book would be donated to the Boy Scouts of America Legal Defense because “they continue to be under attack from the forces of secularism.”
Perry takes a bit of a passive approach to homosexuality. He doesn’t want gay people around him, but he doesn’t believe in “condemning homosexuals that I know personally.”
The Irving, Texas based Boy Scouts organization has come under fire in recent years because of their tough anti-gay stance. There have been multiple instances of gay fathers being excluded from activities. In 2010, a gay father was not allowed to participate in his son’s Scout pack because he’s gay, but was told that he could sell popcorn. One high-profile case involved gay scout Zach Wahls, who has two lesbian mothers, when he was denied his Eagle Scout honor because of his sexual orientation. The organization later awarded him his status.
As is expected, however, money is in many cases the only thing that gets an organization’s attention. Towards the end of 2012, Boy Scouts began losing sponsors and donors because of their policy, including big money donors Merck and Intel.
Governor Perry has not addressed the Boy Scouts in their Report to State event since 2010. I called his press office and asked if his reason for addressing the Scouts, leaders, and organization this year was due to the fact that the national executive board is meeting this week to address and put to vote changes in their anti-gay policy. I also asked Perry’s press office if he would respond with statistics and details as to how the country’s lack of abiding by the Boy Scouts handbook has caused teen pregnancies.
I didn’t get a response last time I called his office for a statement. Will I this time? If you’d like get in touch with the Governor, you can use one of the numbers below.
Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers] : (512) 463-1782
Office of the Governor Main Switchboard [office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST] : (512) 463-2000
Press Office: (512) 463-1826
I am an unapologetic member of the Christian Left, and have spent a lot of time working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discuss, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me via LinkedIn. I also have a grossly neglected blog. Find me somewhere and let’s discuss stuff.