I never joined the Boy Scouts because I could never seem to grasp the concept of giving control of my free time to someone else. Obviously, not everyone shared this view, since many of my peers were not only signing up for the Boy Scouts but also for sports teams, drama clubs, and spiritual retreats. But even though I avoided such organizations, it was always nice to know that I had the option, at any given time, to join one. So you can imagine my outrage when, on June 28, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold the discriminatory practices of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which denied the admittance of homosexuals into its ranks. Since then, people have risen to fight the BSA on their policy against homosexuality; Mark Zubro is one of them.
Zubro is the author of 15 mysteries and is presently in his 31st year of teaching 8th grade English. In 1989 he was honored with the Lambda Literary Award—Best Gay Men's Mystery—for his novel A Simple Suburban Murder. He has recently become one of the vice-presidents for Local 604 Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT).
With the backing of the IFT, Zubro has taken the fight against the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policy to his home front by attempting to pressure Will County's United Way into dropping their support of the organization. 'There might not be much I can do, but I can do this —my little bit to get things moving,' he said.
At the statewide convention of the Illinois Federation of Teachers Feb. 22, Zubro asserted that, 'The Boy Scouts' policy is an attempt to perpetuate the isolation and shame so many gay people feel'—the shame Zubro spoke of is believed to be the leading contributor in gay youth suicide.
The convention proposed a Special Order of Business Opposing Boy Scouts of America Discrimination in which the Illinois chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) asked for 'the assistance of the American Federation of Teachers and all of organized labor to change the discriminatory policies of the Boy Scouts of America.' The proposed document cites the AFT's involvement and history in the human-rights movement as well as its previous dedication to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation.
'We as an organization have passed resolutions that support banning discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation,' Zubro told them. 'This Special Order of Business continues that tradition.'
Of the BSA, the document states, 'the Boy Scouts of America continue to discriminate against gays by prohibiting an openly gay adult to be a scout leader and by prohibiting an openly gay young male to be a scout.'
Although the United Way of Will County has been open to hearing Zubro's argument, it has yet to reach a conclusion on whether or not to withhold funding to the BSA.
On Feb. 6 of 2002 the BSA upped their resistance by adopting a resolution in which 'gays and atheists are deemed unfit and unacceptable role models for scout youth.' Last year's resolution was the first document provided by the BSA to explicitly define their discrimination of homosexuals and was the organization's official response to the many individual Scout Councils' requests to choose their own scouts and scout leaders—with the implied purpose of allowing gay members and participants.
'I honestly don't see why the Scouts are making such a big deal about it,' said Mason Brown, a former Boy Scout and gay-educated heterosexual. 'It's not like when I was in Scouts the whole point was to meet girls or anything—sexuality really played no part.'
'The best thing I ever did in Scouts was to get my Hate Crime Merit Badge,' Brown joked. We laughed, but isn't that what the BSA is teaching to America's youth by saying that a gay individual can't be a good role model or a moral person? Aren't they planting the seeds of intolerance, bigotry, and even violence when they turn away homosexuals as unfit?