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social sciences

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Boy Scouts of America  
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Scouting For All

The work of Eagle Scout Steven Cozza is a highly visible example of how individual Boy Scouts and their families have defied the organization's . In 1998, at the age of 12 Cozza began to fight the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members and leaders and started Scouting For All, an organization that promotes tolerance of homosexuality in the Boy Scouts. Cozza and his father have worked tirelessly to promote their message, appearing everywhere from community grocery stores to gay pride rallies.

Not surprisingly, the BSA has not welcomed such activism, and at times has retaliated by expelling Boy Scout leaders who support Cozza. An elderly former Scoutmaster, Dave Rice, originally struggled with accepting homosexuality when Timothy Curran came out to him in 1981. But after years of reflection and discovering Scouting For All, he concluded it did not matter and began to appear with Steven Cozza at events. The Boy Scouts revoked his membership after Rice publicly supported the fledgling movement.

Sponsor Message.

In spite of such retaliatory actions, local troops and councils continue to resist the national organization's prohibition on gay members and leaders. In August 2001, the Massachusetts Minutemen Council announced that it "will not inquire into a person's sexual history, and that person will not expose their sexual orientation one way or the other." Adopting a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to homosexuality, spokesperson Brock Bigsby argued that "[d]iscussions about sexual orientation do not have a place in Scouts."

Most recently, in May 2003, the largest Boy Scouts Council in the Philadelphia area, under pressure to adopt a nondiscriminatory policy in order to continue receiving funding from the United Way, announced it had approved a resolution not to discriminate against homosexuals.

Despite the announcement, however, the Council, in response to the national organization's threat to withdraw its charter, dismissed an 18-year-old camp counselor when he came out a few days later. As a result, the Pew Charitable Trust announced it was rescinding a major gift to the Council.

It is unclear how effective the challenges from within the organization will be. What is clear is that the crisis of masculinity that characterized the origins of the movement continues to shape it today.

It should also be noted that the current crisis in scouting is distinctly American: the scouting organizations in Canada, Britain, Europe, Australia, and other countries that trace their origins to Baden-Powell's movement do not have policies banning the participation of homosexuals.

The crisis is also distinctly masculine: whereas the Boy Scouts of America openly discriminates against homosexuals, the Girl Scouts of America has been a leader in adopting non-discrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation.

Geoffrey W. Bateman

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social sciences >> Overview:  Homophobia

Homophobia was originally defined as a "dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals," but it is now sometimes used to describe any form of anti-gay bias.

social sciences >> Overview:  Unitarians / Universalists

The Unitarian Universalist church in the United States has been outspoken in support of human rights--including, since 1970, those of the glbtq community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Washington, D. C.

The capital of the United States since 1800, Washington, D. C. has also been one of the capitals of glbtq life in the country for more than a century, despite periodic crackdowns by the police and government.

social sciences >> Baden-Powell, Lord Robert

British military hero and founder of the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides, Lord Robert Baden-Powell was probably a homosexual.

social sciences >> Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, in effect from 1993 until 2011, was a compromise intended to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the U. S. military, but it failed to halt discharges based solely on sexual orientation.

social sciences >> Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts, a social and service organization for girls, led by adult women volunteers, has long had an inclusive non-discrimination policy.

social sciences >> Wolfson, Evan

Evan Wolfson has participated in some of the crucial legal battles in the struggle for glbtq rights, and has been particularly visible in the quest for marriage equality.


Brice, Leslie Everton, et al. "Can a Boy Scout Be Gay." Time (May 1, 2000): 34-37.

Gallagher, John. "Torn Between Two Rulings." The Advocate (May 12, 1998): 48-51.

Mechling, Jay. On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Peterson, Robert W. The Boy Scouts: An American Adventure. New York: American Heritage, 1984.

Rosenthal, Michael. The Character Factory: Baden-Powell's Boy Scouts and the Imperatives of Empire. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986.

Salzman, Allen. "The Boy Scouts Under Siege." American Scholar 61 (1992): 591-97.

Shepard, Tom. Scout's Honor. Produced in association with the Independent Television Service. 60 minutes. 2001.


    Citation Information
    Author: Bateman, Geoffrey W.  
    Entry Title: Boy Scouts of America  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 9, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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