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Boy Scouts

Gay ban claims another victim

By Deirdre Sinnott

The latest victim of the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay members and volunteers is also one of the highest-ranking to face the bigots' wrath so far.

On Oct. 17, at a Santa Barbara, Calif., County Supervisors meeting, BSA Regional Council Executive Director Leonard Lanzi announced that he was gay.

Lanzi told the supervisors, "I am a private person and I am gay. I uphold the Boy Scouts' policies. I would not work for the Boy Scouts if I did not know that they save lives. I made my statement today because, as a Scout, I have to be credible. I could not speak up without some people saying I was hypocritical."

The meeting was held to decide if the County Supervisors should continue their relationship with the BSA in light of its anti-gay policies. In a 5-4 decision June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the BSA's right to ban gay scouts and scout leaders, as well as agnostics and atheists.

Despite Lanzi's dedication to the Scouts, he was fired, or "decommissioned," after coming out. Lanzi worked for the BSA for 14 years.

The BSA's decision to fire Lanzi may be illegal. California has non-discrimination laws to protect employees on the basis of sexual orientation.

James Dale, whose case went before the Supreme Court, was a volunteer, not an employee. A gay student activist and long-time scout member and leader, Dale was ousted by the BSA in 1990.

Enforcing anti-gay bigotry

What is crystal clear is that the BSA continues to enforce anti-gay bigotry. In the words of BSA national spokesperson Greg Shields, "We don't feel an avowed homosexual is a role model for [the BSA's founding] values, and we don't extend roles for leadership to those people."

The BSA Web site claims that "Scouting's record of inclusion is impressive by any standard."

A number of Scout troops have taken issue with that statement. In Harlem, N.Y., Santa Barbara and other places, troop leaders have taken steps to distance themselves from what they term "discriminatory and bigoted" policies.

To find out more about challenges to the BSA's anti-gay stand, readers can visit the Web site www.scoutingforall.org. The site was founded by Eagle Scout Steven Cozza.

Cozza asks all visitors to the site to read page 46 of the new Boy Scout Handbook. It says, "You should respect and defend the rights of all people."

"Now ask yourself," Cozza says, "are the Boy Scouts of America violating their own Scout Oath when they discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people?"

Another question people must ask is, can society create an organization that is open to all, that can teach children to value themselves, others and the natural world? And is it possible under capitalism, a system that thrives on racism, women's oppression, class oppression, and anti-lesbian/gay/bi/trans bigotry?

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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