The Military And The Boy Scouts Take Positive Steps Towards LGBT Non-Discrimination
Less than three weeks since the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land nationwide, two organizations with complicated histories surrounding LGBT equality—the United States Armed Forces and the Boy Scouts of America—have taken positive steps towards ending discrimination against LGBT individuals.
On Monday, Secretary Ash Carter announced that the Pentagon will allow transgender people to serve openly in the military. “We have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines — real, patriotic Americans — who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that’s contrary to our value of service and individual merit,” Sec. Carter said.
Unlike Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which was a law passed by Congress, the trans ban is a military policy that can be changed by the Defense Department alone. When the new policy takes effect sometime within the next six months, the estimated 15,000 transgender service members currently serving in secret will be able to serve openly, and the ban on transgender enrollment will be lifted.
The military’s decision came in tandem with another group’s unanimous decision to expand equal rights to its members. On Monday, the Boy Scouts of America voted to end its longstanding ban on gay scout leaders. This follows another important development made in 2014 when the Boy Scouts lifted their ban on openly gay youth in the program. Beyond allowing new gay leaders to apply, the vote also opens the opportunity for previously removed leaders to seek their former positions. The decision prohibits regional governing bodies from discriminating by virtue of sexual orientation; however, it allows local troops to establish their own eligibility systems, which may also exclude gay applicants.
But these long overdue moments of inclusivity were not universally praised. The Family Research Council has opposed the military’s actions, claiming that “no new science” contributed to the military’s decision to lift the ban, even though the ban is incredibly outdated by all accounts. The Boy Scouts’ actions were also met with criticism, despite the fact that many chapters across the country had long opposed the ban.
Conservative opposition aside, these actions represent significant progress. But there is still much more work to be done. In 28 states, a same-sex couple can be legally married one day, and legally fired from their jobs the next. We must continue building on recent weeks’ progress to ensure comprehensive legislation to outlaw LGBT discrimination.
BOTTOM LINE: While the decisions by the Boy Scouts and the Department of Defense are steps forward for LGBT rights, the fight for equality is not over. These milestones remind us that whether it’s the uniform of a Scout or a soldier, comprehensive equality must be stitched into the fabric of our laws.
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