The well-reported article by Anna Lothson in the Nov. 6 issue on “Scouts for Equality comes to Oak Park” motivated me to attend the meeting it scheduled at the Oak Park Public Library on Nov. 12.
Based on my long-ago experience in Boy Scouts, I thought I might comment on the issues being presented by Scouts for Equality and its co-chairs, Mary Anderson (a lesbian mom) and Cate Readling (a straight mom). The principal issue would focus, as reported, on the goal of Scouts for Equality (a national organization): “formed to work against the current Boy Scouts of America membership policy that bars gay leaders from participating in the organization.”
Of course this issue has many ramifications although, at my ancient age, I am not completely up to date on them and had never heard of Scouts for Equality. When I was 12 years old in 1937 during the Depression in the slums of Chicago, I joined Scouts as they were then. It was a wonderful life with them and so many other scouts. I became an Eagle Scout and at about 15 became scoutmaster when ours had to go to war, as I did at 18 upon graduation from high school. At our recent 70th high school reunion, which we had here in my house, stories were still being told of the wonderful help Scouts were to those of us involved.
Yes, there were problems, sometimes for a few in another area — sexual advances. In those days, they were seldom reported, QT was customary, and there was little criminal prosecution (unlike now). That is why the Scout regulation to bar participation by those involved in sexual advances, etc. was decided upon. The word “gay” was not even used then.
As I have seen changes in life during all these years and was updated at the meeting by listening to lesbian, gay, straight, young, old, national and local officials, scouts, etc., it became obvious to me that our local Scouts for Equality is a thoroughly-informed group that will clarify the present issues in an informative, truthful, civil manner (as I have sometimes seen in my 60 years of combative legal practice).
There is not enough space for me to provide the detail which Scouts for Equality is offering, but in general the public and those involved in scouting, to resolve the issues, should understand that now and, possibly for a few more years that may be required to resolve the issues, scouting is and has been (created more than 100 years ago in England by Lord Baden Powell) one of the best organizations for doing good in the world.
Many of its members have become some of the best leaders in our country, including some of its presidents. Scouting should not be subject to the defamation and damages and bigotry sometimes heaped upon it. People should also listen to the changes in our society — priests, ministers, teachers, etc. — changes in the law, the difference between criminal sexual offenses and different sexual behavior. There are also religious beliefs that need to be acknowledged and do not justify bigotry accusations which are sometimes expressed.
The procedures expressed by Scouts for Equality and others to resolve the issues appear to be based upon truth, justice and civility.