(CNSNews.com) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney this week reiterated his view that the Boy Scouts of America should admit homosexuals as Scouts and Scout leaders. He also supports the right of the Scouts to decide their own policies.
Currently, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) does not admit homosexuals as Scouts or Scout leaders.
Romney first expressed his view that the Boy Scouts should admit homosexuals in 1994. When Romney was running for the U.S. Senate that year against Democrat Sen. Ted Kennedy, he said “all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Tovia Smith of WBUR radio in Boston asked Romney during an October 1994 debate, “Mr. Romney, you say you’re a moderate on social issues, one who will defend abortion rights, equal rights for women, for blacks and for gays -- in fact, you say you will do more to promote gay rights than Senator Kennedy.”
Smith continued, “You also sit on the national Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America, which has an exclusionary policy banning gay members. Do you support that policy and, if not, have you ever done anything as a board member to oppose it?”
Romney said, “I believe that the Boy Scouts of America does a wonderful service for this country. I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul confirmed to the Associated Press on Aug. 5 that Romney maintains the position he took back in 1994.
When asked for direct confirmation that Gov. Romney maintains the same position he held in 1994, the Romney campaign referred CNSNews.com to several past quotations regarding Romney’s opposition to the ban, including that of the 1994 debate.
Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality, hailed Romney’s stance as “the right thing to do,” as well as the fact that President Obama apparently shares the same view on this issue.
“I think more generally, if you look at the fact that both President Obama and his opponent in the presidential election are on the record together in this incredibly polarized political climate, I think it really speaks to both the moral validity and also the critical importance of ending this policy,” Wahls told CNSNews.com.
“There aren't a whole lot of areas in the American political sphere where you see this kind of overlap, and I think it really does speak volumes about how important this is,” he said.
As reported by CNSNews.com, the Boy Scouts of America came under scrutiny after a petition was released by ousted Cub Scout den leader and lesbian Jennifer Tyrell on Change.org, urging the Scouts to change the policy on openly gay members.
Although the petition has been signed by 320,000 people across the country, including Hollywood celebrities, the Scouts have not changed the policy.
“Contrary to media reports, the Boy Scouts of America has no plans to change its membership policy. The introduction of a resolution does not indicate the organization is ‘reviewing’ a policy or signal a change in direction,” according to an official statement from the Boy Scouts of America national office on June 7.
“The BSA is a voluntary, private organization that sets policies that are best for the organization,” reads the statement. “The BSA welcomes all who share its beliefs but does not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path.”
Upon becoming a Boy Scout, each member takes the following oath:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
In June of 2000, the Boy Scouts of America went to the Supreme Court to preserve their right not to admit homosexuals after the New Jersey Supreme Court had ruled that the Scouts policy was in violation of New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law.
The Boy Scouts in that state had been sued by a former Eagle Scout who came out as a homosexual after becoming a Scoutmaster, and was consequently removed from that post.
One question before the court was whether homosexual behavior comported with a Scout's pledge to be “morally straight."
However, the Court ruled in the Scouts’ favor and, in the majority opinion, the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist rejected the argument that homosexual behavior could constitute “morally straight” behavior, by citing the Boy Scouts’ statements to the contrary.
“And the terms ‘morally straight’ and ‘clean’ are by no means self-defining. Different people would attribute to those terms very different meanings. For example, some people may believe that engaging in homosexual conduct is not at odds with being ‘morally straight’ and ‘clean,’” Rehnquist wrote.
“And others may believe that engaging in homosexual conduct is contrary to being ‘morally straight’ and ‘clean.’ The Boy Scouts says it falls within the latter category,” wrote Rehnquist.
The current BSA policy on sexual orientation reads as follows:
“While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to members who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.