(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)
A number of former Eagle Scout members have announced that they will be giving up their hard-earned medals over the decision of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to affirm its policy on limiting leadership positions only to heterosexuals.
"I can no longer maintain any connection to an organization which actively promotes such a bigoted and misguided policy," wrote Dr. Robert Wise of Chicago in a letter to the Scouts. "To that end, I am interested in removing all evidence that I was ever a Scout."
Last month, the group revealed that it had concluded a secret two-year-long examination into its policy and found out that its current stance "remains in the best interest of Scouting."
"Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting. While not all Board members may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA," said the executive committee of the BSA National Executive Board.
While many have supported preserving the traditional principles of the organization, others besides Wise have also come out saying that the decision, which they see as discrimination, goes against their principles and have decided to return their medals.
"But I do know that my now deceased mother, a lesbian, would not have been allowed to serve as a den mother if her orientation had been public knowledge," wrote attorney Jackson Cooper, 32, a former senior patrol leader who lives in Louisville, Ky. "The thought that I have invested such a large part of my life with an organization that would have turned my own mother away breaks my heart."
Martin Cizmar, and arts and culture editor of the Willamette Week in Portland, Ore., tweeted: "Just mailed my Eagle Scout medal back to the BSA to protest the ban on gay scouts. Kinda sad, but important."
"Though I did not know at the time, I was acquainted with a number of gay Scouts and Scouters (adult leaders)," he added in his BSA letter. "They were all great men, loyal to the Scout Oath and motto and helpful to the movement. There is no fair reason they should not be allowed to participate in scouting."
The Boy Scouts of America has said they are not keeping count of how many medals have been returned over the decision, but shared that there were about 50,000 awarded each year.
"We're naturally disappointed when someone decides to return a medal because of this single policy," a spokesman said. "We respect their right to express their opinion."