The Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision to allow gay troop leaders is the result of anti-discrimination laws that were “designed” to take down the organization, according to one Republican member of Congress.
In an interview with NBC 5’s Julie Fine, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) said he disagreed with the Boy Scouts’ decision last month to end its strict ban on gay and lesbian adults. Under the new policy, troops sponsored by churches and religious organizations can still prohibit gay and lesbian volunteers if they want to, but are no longer required to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Sessions, who noted that he himself is an Eagle Scout and is “deeply involved” with the organization, said the organization’s decision was prompted by “outside factors” that are “trying to literally ruin the Boy Scouts of America over something they don’t understand,” presumably referring to LGBT advocacy groups.
Sessions also implied that anti-discrimination laws were designed specifically to upend the organization.
“It was done because of a series of laws across the United States that were designed to sue the Boy Scouts of America and take us to our knees,” he said.
To be clear, it doesn’t appear that anti-discrimination laws prompted the Boy Scouts to make the policy change. Some states began passing non-discrimination laws in the 1990s, long before the Boy Scouts took up the issue. And in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts were allowed to discriminate against gay troop leaders, as the organization was private and could make its own membership rules.
In fact, the Boy Scouts’ policy shift came amid decisions by numerous sponsors to end their funding to the organization over the discriminatory policy. More than 70 affiliates from United Way stopped funding local Boy Scouts councils because of it, as did Walt Disney World and Lockheed Martin. President Barack Obama had also urged the organization to change the policy.
There don’t appear to be any issues with the change so far. Even the Mormon Church, which is “the largest single sponsor of Boy Scout units” and had threatened to leave if the organization allowed gay and lesbian leaders, has decided to stay.
Sessions is not the only national politician to weigh in on whether the Boy Scouts should allow openly gay troop leaders. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) recently said the national organization would be “better off” without gay leaders, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) said the organization’s ban had “protected children.” Both Perry and Walker are seeking the Republican nomination for president.