Giggles echoed through the staircase of Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in Windsor Terrace Thursday night, as boy scouts of Troop 187 kidded around with each other before their weekly meeting.
Some boys decked out in the familiar khaki button-ups and blue bandanas hid behind pillars, ready to spook friends who were just arriving. Leaders and parents brought in snacks and posters depicting the latest troop ski trip to the Catskills, and moms chatted about which brownie box mix was the best.
But when the scout leaders were asked about the prospective policy change on the established gay-ban for the Boy Scouts of America began, tensions rose and mouths closed.
Last Monday, the Boy Scouts of America announced that the ban on openly gay scouts and leaders—a policy that has been in place for a century—might be lifted. According to the scoutmaster of Troop 187, Sean Rowley, chartered organizations have been told by the national board that they may not comment on the possible policy change. But parents willing to be interviewed outside the meeting welcomed the idea.
“I don’t really think anybody’s sexuality should have any part of Boy Scouts,” said Lara Dicus, a parent of two scouts in the troop. Dicus is raising her two sons as Catholics, but she says she is strongly in favor of the policy change. “Everybody should be able to join.”
But for now, before the policy change decision is made, the troop will continue as usual. Dicus said that the troop has turned a blind eye in the past.
“I guess it’s like a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy,” she said.
A spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, Deron Smith, said the organization reconsidered the policy because it realized that the ban on gays caused some chartered organizations and volunteers “to act in conflict with their missions, principles or religious beliefs.” Smith said that the discussion about whether or not the gay ban should be lifted will most likely take place next week, when the national board holds its regular meeting in Irving, Texas.
But even if the ban is lifted, troops will not be forced to accept gay scouts and leaders. Instead, the policy simply will provide the opportunity for troops to decide if they want to include gay members. Whether or not individual troops decide to be inclusive is up to that chartered group.
“It’s a start,” Dicus said. But for her, it’s not enough. If the ban on gays is lifted, but Troop 187 does not allow gay scouts and leaders to participate in the troop, Dicus said she will not permit her boys to continue.
“Hopefully in 30 years,” Dicus said, “they’ll think, ‘How could they ever discriminate?’”
As a parent and Eagle Scout, Leonard Shostak, 42, has spoken out in favor of lifting the ban. Shostak has a cub scout and boy scout in Troop 187, and he hopes they gain the same experiences he did as a scout. But he hopes that they will be able to do so beside people of any sexual orientation. He said he thinks this has been a long time coming, and he thinks that education and familiarity is what will lead troops to become more inclusive.
“As people get educated, as people meet people, and people marry, you can’t stop it,” Shostak said. “It’s inevitable.”
–As featured in The Brooklyn Ink