Scouts’ Anti-Gay Volunteer Stand ‘Cannot Be Sustained’

May 21, 2015       Patrick Sullivan      

The Boy Scouts of America’s prohibition against gay adult volunteers and employees is unsustainable, according to the organization’s board president. “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” said Robert Gates during the BSA’s National Annual Business Meeting in Atlanta, Ga.

“We can expect more councils to openly challenge the current policy,” continued Gates, BSA’s National Executive Board president. He cited multiple states passing laws that protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. “Thus, between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position, a position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy. We must all understand that this probably will happen sooner rather than later,” said Gates, former Secretary of Defense under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The BSA said in a statement that Gates’ comments “speak for themselves” and added that “It is important to note that no decisions were made during the National Annual Meeting. The BSA remains committed to working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training and will continue accomplish incredible things for the young people and communities we serve.”

“This is another step forward for the Boy Scouts of America,” said Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, an organization dedicated to changing the BSA’s ban on gay adult membership. “I’m proud to see Dr. Gates charting a course towards full equality in the BSA. While our work won’t be done until we see a full end to their ban on gay adults once and for all, today’s announcement is a significant step in that direction.”

Gates opened his remarks by thanking chief executive Wayne Brock for his service. After 43 years in scouting and three years at the top spot, Brock will retire, effective October 1. Mike Surbaugh, currently the Irving, Texas-based BSA’s group director of HR innovations, will take over.

“I am honored and humbled to have been selected as the Boy Scouts of America’s Chief Scout Executive,” said Surbaugh via a statement. “As I transition into this role, I am committed to continuing the legacy of leadership to solidify Scouting’s role in the development of America’s youth and to empower our volunteers to deliver the kind of life-changing experiences that can only be found within Scouting.”

According to Gates, the chief executive position will take a 20 percent cut in base pay with a potential 10 percent bonus for performance. Brock earned $411,409 in 2013, according to the most recently available federal Form 990.

The Boy Scouts have faced challenges to its membership policy in recent years. Last year Disney joined six other large companies in dropping its sponsorship for the BSA due to the policy. The Boy Scouts changed its membership policy in 2013 to allow gay youth members, due to a resolution that voting members passed.