One month ago today, the Senate confirmed Eric Fanning as undersecretary of the Air Force — the second-highest civilian position in this branch of the United States Armed Services. Today, the 1400 members of the national council of the Boy Scouts of America voted to change its position on whether gay boys and men are welcomed to participate as scouts and troop leaders. As a result of today’s vote, Undersecretary Fanning continues to be unfit and unwelcomed to step into the role of a troop leader in the eyes of the Boy Scouts. Why? Because he is a gay man.
Fanning has been deputy undersecretary and deputy chief management officer for the Department of the Navy since July 2009. When Bill Clinton was president, Fanning was a research assistant with the House Armed Services Committee, a special assistant in the Immediate Office of the Secretary of Defense, and an associate director of political affairs at the White House. But because he is gay, the Boy Scouts of America consider him to be unfit as an adult leader for its young members.
Under the new guidelines enacted today, the Boy Scouts will no longer ban or discriminate against gay boys who have the courage to come out to their peers and their troop leaders. That is, until they reach the age of 18. The day they turn 18 years old, according to the new guidelines, these young men become unfit and unwelcomed to participate in Scouting in any capacity. Why, because at 18, they are gay men — no longer gay boys, but gay men. And that, according to the thinking behind the new guidelines, changes everything and renders these former scouts a danger, a menace, a threat to the teenagers who were their peers the day before. And it renders them unfit for the rest of their lives.
What idiocy is this?
It is the kind of idiocy that continues to allow employers in 29 states to fire an employee simply because he or she is gay.
It is the kind of idiocy that is rearing its ugly head in legislative efforts designed to permit anyone to refuse any and all service to gay men and women simply by invoking a First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression.
It is the kind of idiocy that carries with it the moniker homophobia.
And the new guidelines enacted by the Boy Scouts of America, camouflaged as progressive policy, do little more than reinforce this entrenched homophobia. For all intents and purposes, the national council is just passing the buck to the next generation of Boy Scouts of America leaders.
For my part, I have every confidence that this next generation of leaders will have more courage than the current timid group to stand up, to speak up and to act to assure the equal treatment and the equal respect of all American citizens — our Undersecretary of the Air Force included.