Better grave than slave

Homosexuals Rally Against Scouts
Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2000

WASHINGTON - Homosexual activists Monday staged small protests nationwide aimed at cutting public and private funding for the Boy Scouts of America over its ban on homosexual scoutmasters and homosexual youths as members.

"The court has said it's legal for the Boy Scouts to discriminate, but we're saying legal or not, it's immoral," said one protester.

In response to the demonstrations planned in 21 states, BSA defended its right as a private group to set its own standards for membership.

"We recognize the rights of all people to hold opinions different than ours," said Gregg Shields, spokesman for the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. "We're a private organization, and no one is forced to join. We welcome people who share our values and beliefs."

The recent Supreme Court decision BSA vs. Dale found that the scouts are not a public accommodation subject to state anti-discrimination laws.

Scouting for All, an organization of ex-Scouts who dissent from the BSA's position on homosexuality, has begun a national campaign to pressure the Boy Scouts.

"We want companies and organizations and cities to withdraw funding from the Boy Scouts and support youth organizations that don't discriminate against gays and gay youth,'' said Edgar Rodriguez, New York City organizer of Scouting for All.

"All the funding, all the privileges, all the public space, the free support the Boy Scouts have had over the years, is slowly being removed.''

The campaign was kicked off Monday with demonstrations in 19 states and the District of Columbia. About two dozen protesters outside the Bethesda, Md., headquarters of the National Capital Area Scout Council held signs reading, "BSA Discriminates" and "BSA: Straight But Not Morally Clean."

Other protests around the country drew similar numbers, considerably lower than organizers' projections of 100 to 300 people a demonstration.

"It may seem like we're taking on a giant, but we think the position will be changed," said former scout Graham Segroves of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "It's all part of making a more tolerant country."

Segroves was among the activists present when Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., introduced legislation repealing the Boy Scouts' federal charter, an honorary designation given to the organization in 1916.

"We're not saying they're bad," said Woolsey. "We're saying intolerance is bad, and I don't see any reason why the federal government should be supporting it."

Also, activists claim credit for the decision of several chapters of United Way to withdraw funding from scout councils. The national organization says it is reviewing the Supreme Court's Dale decision for "legal ramifications."

However, the failure of Woolsey's bill to attract any support on Capitol Hill, as well as the small turnout at today's protests, does not deter homosexual activists. "They've got to learn that people won't stand for this discrimination," said John Schuppan, a former Scout from Columbia, Mo.

"We're going to work to change their position and to get groups that support them to put pressure on the national council. ... We don't want to close the Boy Scouts, but we do want them to change."

"This is a multi-front effort to make America more tolerant. ... We're just one small part," said Segroves. A spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America said the organization expected protests when it pursued the Dale case to the Supreme Court.

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