Tracie Felker and Joe Marion share a deep passion for Scouting. Each has a son who attained the top rank of Eagle, and each has spent numerous years and thousands of hours volunteering as Scout leaders, promoting Scout values.
And that’s where they diverge. When the Boy Scouts of America votes next week on whether to admit gay youth as members, Felker and Marion hope for opposite outcomes.
Marion says his issues have to do with logistics. He said admission of gay Scouts would put Troop 413, the pack he started five years ago, at risk of losing its charter. The troop would then have to find a new place to meet if First Baptist Church of Henderson, Tenn., pulls its sponsorship.
Then there are the other considerations, he says, like the ones related to the monthly camping trips his troop organizes.
“The problem is, do I let my kids who are straight share bathrooms and shower houses with kids who are not? How do I divide these kids up for camps? I mean, do I put the gay kids together and then the straight kids together?” he said.
Marion worries about the potential interaction during those sleepaways.
“What happens when a kid comes back from a trip where he was approached, or something did go on – what is the parent going to do? Who are they going to be mad at? Who are they going to lash out at? Me, because I’m the volunteer that took responsibility for their kid,” he said. “You understand why I’m concerned?”
Felker finds those arguments alarmist. A former merit badge coordinator, troop committee chair and two-time den leader, Felker calls the gay ban a form of discrimination that negates everything the Scouts stand for.
The proposal being considered by the national council of the Boy Scouts of America would allow openly gay boys into the program but continue to ban gay adults as leaders. The council’s 1,400-members will vote on the measure May 23 while in Texas for the organization’s national meeting.
Zach Wahls thinks the proposal is a good start but doesn’t go far enough because, among other things, it would exclude parents like his. The 21-year-old Iowa native was raised on Scouting from the time he was 6 by a lesbian couple.
“My mom, Jackie, was a den mother and my mom, Kerry, was an interim Cub Master,” said Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, a group with more than 6,500 Eagle Scouts like himself and other Scout alumni advocating for the admission of gay youth and adults.