Students protest Boy Scouts of America

Scouting For All, a non-profit organization whose mission is to "get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its policy of discrimination against gay youth and adults," held nationwide demonstrations Aug. 21 to kick off their latest campaign against the Boy Scouts of America.

John Schuppan, a local organizer for SFA and a School of Communication senior, led one of the largest demonstrations in the country at BSA regional headquarters in Bethesda, Md.

Protestors of all ages displayed signs that read "Stop Bigotry" and "I Love Scouting and I Love My Boyfriend."

"The protest's goal was to inform the general public of the discrimination policy of the boy scouts," Schuppan said.

About 50 people were at the protest, according to Martin Varghese, a School of Public Affairs senior.

"All things considered...time, location and lack of student support (summer break) we had a good, well, diverse community representation. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Human Rights Campaign, members of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as well as five other AU students all had representation," Schuppan said.

The goal of the demonstration was to bring to light that this is a discrimination issue, Schuppan said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 28 that the organization could maintain the bar against gays as scout leaders.

"Many believe that this issue is primarily a gay man's problem, [but] the scouts are an organization that touches one out of three households in America, [who] say gays are 'morally unclean' and believe that gays are not good role models... this issue is community wide," he said.

New York City is the frontline on this issue, Schuppan said, but he plans on joining forces with AU's GLBTA to try to mobilize people.

Initially, Schuppan wants to set up a research committee to see if D.C. has sexual orientation discrimination policies.

The center of the movement, he hopes, will be at AU.

"I also want to form a panel or speaking group... to heighten awareness of this issue on campus," he said.

The demonstrators were careful to be respectful of the Boy Scouts' facilities during the protest.

"Mainly, we didn't have any interaction with [the Boy Scouts]. We were very cautious to stay off the grass so we weren't trespassing and [made sure] to be politeto them. Being rude never gets you anywhere," Varghese said.

In the upcoming months, SFA will be focusing on a variety of angles to get the BSA to change their current homosexual policy.

"We call it a 'New Era of Our National Campaign.' It'll focus on three primary areas. First is on the members of the BSA, both youth and adults. The second is BSA funders. We're going to do advocacy around the United Ways and corporations who fund the BSA. And the third is to reach out to Government, Municipalities, Schools and other facilities the BSA uses to let them know about anti-discrimination ordinances they have or should have," Scott Cozza, president and co-founder of Scouting For All, said.

Of 152 world scouting organizations, Saudi Arabian and other Middle-Eastern nations are the only other groups to prohibit gay scout leaders, in part because their organizations are tied to the Islamic religion, Cozza said.

"In our country, scouting is supposed to be non-sectarian," Cozza said. "It is not supposed to be driven by any religion or group. [Religion is] supposed to be determined by each troop's charter."

"We're not here to bring down the Boy Scouts of America, we're trying to bring them up to the standards of scouting which they have strayed from," Cozza said.

A statement released by BSA national spokesman Gregg Shields on the day of the national protests stated that homosexuality is incompatible with the group's oath, in which scouts pledge to keep themselves "physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

The Boy Scouts of America could not be reached for comment for this article.

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