On March 23, scoutmasters and parents from across the country held a press conference in downtown Orlando announcing the launch of On My Honor, a national coalition opposing lifting the ban on openly gay and trans boy scouts and troop leaders.
A crowd of approximately 50 people gathered outside the Bob Carr Center for the Performing Arts for the press conference, attended mostly by On My Honor coalition members and the media.
The website OnMyHonor.net has also been launched as the anti-LGBT coalition that “work to keep open homosexuality out of the Boy Scouts” according to the group’s press release.
“I think that most people are very uncomfortable with because they know that gay people can be in scouting, they just have to act appropriately,” said On My Honor founder, Orlando attorney and notable anti-gay activist John Stemberger. “They can’t be open and by open meaning come out in the open…that’s usually involving some kind of activism or expression that really we don’t think is appropriate for kids.”
Stemberger stated that he thinks the currently policy is not discriminatory and simply prevents sex and politics from being injected into the organization.
“Scouts do not discriminate. There is no question on the application about sexual orientation,” Stemberger said. “All it reads is that scouting does not allow inappropriate expression of sexuality of any type.”
He also said he saw no correlation between the Boy Scout’s ban on gay and trans youth and issues of bullying, suicide and homelessness that disproportionately affect LGBTQ youth.
In addition to Stemberger, more than dozen scout leaders and family members of Boy Scouts spoke at the press conference, many promising to leave the Boy Scouts of America organization if the current ban on gays was lifted.
Biill Gosselin, Director of Operations for the Central Florida Council of Boy Scouts of America, said the Central Florida Council does not have an official stance on the issue.
“It's an open discussion,” he said. “We are not taking any sides on this point.”
Gosselin said that the current policy, not just in Central Florida but nation-wide, is that openly gay and trans individuals are not allowed to be members or leaders. The Central Florida Council of Boy Scouts of America serves Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties.
According to the nationwide group Scouts for Equality, which opposes the current ban, the Boy Scouts of America has barred openly gay and trans individuals from participating in its program at any level since 1991.
Gosselin said that the current policy also prohibits Boy Scout troops from collaborating with openly LGBT individuals and organizations in the community such as Central Florida school GSAs, the Zebra Coalition and the Orlando Youth Alliance.
“We don't ask or inquire, but if someone’s sexuality becomes a distraction ,” said Gosselin.
He said the currently policy is largely influenced by the religious organizations with which the Boy Scouts partner. Some approve of the ban and some do not.
According to Gosselin, what would be considered a distraction was somewhat unclear, in terms of scouts and troop leaders who just happen to identify as gay or transgender.
Gosselin is not sure what decision the national office in Texas will make on the ban when it votes on May 23.
“No matter what the decision, the mission of the Boy Scouts will stay the same…that is not going to change. It’s been the same for 103 years,” he said.
Speaker Thomas Dillingham stated he was fearful that the Boy Scouts of America was in danger of losing sight of its values and referenced the Girl Scouts of the USA and Scouts of Canada as examples of organizations overrun by sex and politics.
Grace Gonzales, Vice-President of Marketing and Community Partners for the Girl Scouts of Citrus, said the group does not have a stance on the Boy Scout’s gay and transgender ban, but did say that the Girl Scouts organization strives to be non-judgmental. The Girl Scouts of Citrus Council includes the counties of Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia.
“We don't take a position or develop materials ,” she said. “We feel that our role is to develop self-confidence and decision-making skills...life skills.”
Gonzalez said that parents or guardians are responsible for teaching their kids about sexuality.
Unlike the Boy Scouts, Gonzales said Girl Scouts work with the placement of openly gay and transgender youth in troops on a case-by-case basis to ensure their emotional and physical safety.
In regards to troop leaders and volunteers, Gonzales said they don’t ask about sexuality or gender identity.
“As long as they fit the requirements of our positions and have the girls’ best interests , we just feel that it's not any of our business,” she said. “ is not a requirement and it's not a negative either.”
The On My Honor coalition’s announcement was timed to coincide with the Central Florida Council’s Town Hall Meeting, which Boy Scouts of America CEO Wayne Brock and National Commissioner Tico Perez were scheduled to attend.
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