The Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on gay den leaders, scoutmasters and camp counselors on Monday.
The 105-year-old organization dropped its ban on gay Scouts two years ago. But advocates, online petitions, celebrities including Steven Spielberg, changing public sentiment – even Scouts themselves – continued to push the group to stop banning gay adults, too.
How did the Scouts get to Monday’s announcement? Here’s a look back.
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The Boy Scouts of America rejects Tim Curran, an 18-year-old Eagle Scout in Berkeley, Calif., for the position of assistant scoutmaster after a local newspaper publishes a story on gay teens that features a picture of him and his male prom date. Boy Scouts execs tell him that because he is gay he is not “a good moral example” for other Scouts.
Curran sues the local Mount Diablo Council – said to be the first lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America charging anti-gay discrimination. Seventeen years later (1998), California’s Supreme Court rules in BSA’s favor.
“Over nearly two decades, each time we were in court the case received mountains of media attention. It appeared in pretty much every paper in the country,” says Curran, now a writer and editor at CNN. “I was on most of the major talk shows, facing hostile audience members and disgusted hosts ...”
Boy Scouts of America revokes former Eagle Scout James Dale’s adult membership as an assistant scoutmaster when it learns that he is gay.
Dale sues the Boy Scouts in New Jersey Superior Court.
The New Jersey Court rules in favor of the Boy Scouts. Dale appeals the ruling.
Twelve-year-old Boy Scout Steven Cozza starts a group called Scouting for All to fight the Scouts’ anti-gay policies. “A lot of my friends were gay, and a lot of my role models are gay. And I couldn’t believe that they weren’t allowed to be in Scouting just because they were gay,” Cozza tells “Good Morning America” years later.
An appellate court in New Jersey rules that the BSA violated state anti-discrimination laws by excluding Dale because he is gay – the first appellate court victory in the country against the Scouts’ policies. BSA appeals to the state Supreme Court.
The New Jersey Supreme Court agrees with the lower court: The Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members and leaders violates state anti-discrimination laws. The group appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the BSA is a private group and can set whatever membership criteria it wants. The court holds that the constitutional right to freedom of association allows a private group to exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group's ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” Opposition to homosexuality, the court decides, is part of BSA’s “expressive message.”
Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg leaves his post on the BSA’s national honorary advisory board to protest the group’s anti-gay policies. “The last few years in Scouting have deeply saddened me to see the Boy Scouts of America actively and publicly participating in discrimination. It’s a real shame,” he says in a statement.
The BSA spends time in state and federal courts. Among the cases: It unsuccessfully contests Connecticut’s decision to cut off funds through a charitable donation program for state employees, and a decision by the city of Berkeley, Calif., to deny free use of a public boat slip by Boy Scouts because of the gay ban. The group wins a court fight, however, in Philadelphia, where the city council in 2007 demands that the Cradle of Liberty Boy Scouts council either end its discrimination against gays or pay rent for city-owned buildings that it uses for free.
Longtime den leader Denise Steele in Virginia is removed from her post because she is a lesbian.
Scout leader Jennifer Tyrrell in Ohio is removed from her post because she is a lesbian.
Eagle Scout Eric Jones, 19, from Kearney, makes national headlines when he is removed from a leadership position at a Boy Scout camp near St. Joseph after he tells his camp director that he is gay. Jones had been a Boy Scout for a decade. “The thing was,” Jones tells The Kansas City Star, “(the camp director) was nice and respectful about it. He said I deserved to be there, but they had to follow the policy. He immediately told me I had to pack my things.”
Two days later the BSA reaffirms its ban of gay members and LGBT leaders. The group says that an 11-member committee conducted a two-year review that concluded that its anti-gay membership policy was best for the organization.
President Barack Obama says he opposes the BSA’s anti-gay policy. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also opposes the ban.
The Intel Foundation, the grant-making arm of Intel and one of the BSA’s largest corporate donors, reveals that it has yanked that funding from Boy Scout troops and councils that follow the BSA’s anti-gay policy.
The charitable foundation of UPS announces it will no longer give money to the Boy Scouts of America as long as the group discriminates against gays.
February 6, 2013
The BSA’s executive board announces that it will delay a decision on the gay ban until the group’s national meeting in May.
Pop star Carly Rae Jepsen and the band Train cancel performances at the annual National Scout Jamboree in July to protest the anti-gay stance. “Here’s hoping they make the right decision, and I’m praying that moves like this will help,” Jepsen tells MTV.
May 23, 2013
The Boy Scouts of America votes to admit openly gay Scouts but still bans gay adults from serving with the group. The move has the support of about 60 percent of the 1,400 delegates.
At its national meeting in Houston, Boy Scouts of America President Bob Gates calls for the organization to lift its ban against gay adult troop leaders. “I must speak as plainly and bluntly to you as I spoke to presidents when I was director of CIA and secretary of defense. We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” Gates says.