Sunday, October 07, 2012

The BSA and DADT

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy in the military was repealed September 20, 2011. Prior to its enactment by President Clinton, service members and others had said that having openly gay troops would harm the military.
The Palm Center, which is part of the Williams Institute, an independent think tank conducting research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, at the University of California Los Angeles, School of Law, conducts research on sexual minorities in the military. They convened a panel of nine scholars, some of them professors at military academies, to conduct a study that began six months after the policy ended and concluded at about the one-year anniversary of the repeal. The panel interviewed opponents and advocates of the repeal as well as active-duty service members. They conducted on-site observations of four military units and reached out to 553 of the nearly 1,200 flag officers who signed a 2009 letter saying the repeal would undermine the military. Thirteen of these generals and admirals agreed to be interviewed.
From the study: “Our conclusion, based on all of the evidence available to us, is that DADT repeal has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale. Although we identified a few downsides that followed from the policy change, we identified upsides as well, and in no case did negative consequences outweigh benefits. If anything, DADT repeal appears to have enhanced the military’s ability to pursue its mission.”
The research also showed that the repeal hadn’t been responsible for any new wave of violence or physical abuse among service members and appears to have enabled some gay troops to resolve disputes around harassment in ways that were not possible before.
Then we have the Boy Scouts of America, with its own version of DADT, a long-standing ban on “open or avowed homosexuals” both in the leadership and the membership of the organization. Many scouting families, in their own version of DADT went on with their participation in the hop that the antiquated rule, which was at times ignored, would be changed sooner rather than later.
But last week the BSA made it clear that the old policy was still in force. Ryan Andresen, a teenager who had completed all the requirements to become an Eagle Scout, was denied the highest Scout honor because he recently told his friends and family he is gay.
That local decision adhered to the BSA's ban on membership for gays, a policy officially recognized in 1991, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 and strongly reiterated by the organization in a July ruling. The rule, decided by a panel in Texas, was clear: No openly gay members.
By way of full disclosure, I was an Eagle Scout back in the day, and in fact was told at the time that I was, for a while, the youngest Eagle Scout in the US. I have always been pro-scouting and encouraged my children to participate. Scouting is good. This policy is not. As a private organization, the Supreme Court ruled the BSA could make its own rules, and I’m not questioning their right to do so – I’m saying that having the right doesn’t make it right. I was a Scout in an era when being gay wasn’t discussed, but there were always a few kids we knew were “that way,” and it didn’t affect anything – not in camp, not at the National Jamboree, and not in the troop, and it won’t affect anything now.
When Ryan’s mother Karen Andresen took up the fight this week for her son, support was immediately forthcoming, with more than 339,000 people (as of Sunday) listed on a petition urging Scout leaders to sign the teen's Eagle Scout paperwork. It would be an act of moral courage for them to do so. If repealing DADT didn’t harm the military, it won’t harm the Boy Scouts.


No comments: