Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Queer Reasoning

The City of Philadelphia has punted its local Boy Scout chapter from its headquarters, which is has occupied since 1928.

Not for failure to pay rent.

Rather, the City Council voted overwhelmingly to kick the Scouts out unless they either "[reversed] the national Boy Scouts of America's ban on gays serving in the ranks or as scoutmasters ..."

One would think that a local organization that gets 56,000 boys, many without father figures, to "spend countless hours cleaning parks, running food drives, and organizing meals for the needy" would be something to laud, not ostracize.

The alternative: start coughing up the "market" rent of $200,000 per year. Despite the fact that:
For the past 80 years, the scouts have leased their corner lot off of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for a nominal fee. And they have made the site their own by building a three-story 8,928-square-foot Italian Renaissance-style headquarters with private funds. ... And each year they spend about $60,000 on maintenance. In 1994, they spent $2.6 million on renovations.
What started this exercise in nose cutting and face spiting was the US Supreme Court decision in 2000 that the Boy Scouts, a private organization, could exclude homosexuals.
Following the ruling, local governments and organizations across the country took aim at the scouts.

The Philadelphia chapter lost annual six-figure donations from the United Way and the Pew Charitable Trusts, according to Mark Chilutti, vice chairman of the Cradle of Liberty Council.
To some degree, the Scouts have brought this upon themselves. By characterizing homosexuality as a choice, by definition morally wrong, the Scouts have both painted themselves into a rapidly shrinking corner, as well as handing their opponents the stick with which to beat the Scouts.

Far better to take the gay argument as given: homosexuality is innate, no more a choice than left handedness or hair color; however, it is an unchosen characteristic with real consequences. That would allow the Boy Scouts to exclude gays for the same reason they exclude Girl Scouts: sorry, wrong gender.

Just as girls are characteristically different than boys, gays are different, also. Gender is more than just plumbing. It makes no more sense to excoriate the Boy Scouts for excluding girls, or vice versa, than it does to start grabbing torches and pitch forks for the Girl Scouts decision to also exclude gays.

Or for that matter, the Girl Scouts excluding male scoutmasters, never mind making it nearly impossible for fathers to accompany their daughters on Girl Scout camping expeditions.

The only difference among these is that only one is being pilloried at the altar of phantom equality.

The Boy Scouts could do themselves no end of good by ditching religiously derived nonsense in favor of reality, then hoisting their opponents upon their own arguments.

Of course, the outcome would be the same. Pity the City Council, whose collective IQs would leave a room decidedly chilly, can't figure that out.



Full disclosure: My son is a Boy Scout, and my wife is secretary for the troop.

31 Comments:

Blogger Bret said...

"[Homosexuality] is an unchosen characteristic with real consequences..."

Other than (possibly) gay scoutmasters, what significant consequences are there?

February 26, 2008 6:17 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Ummm ... a preference for pastels?

More seriously, though, being gay means one's mating choices are going to be substantially different than if one is straight.

Which means it might be better to think of humans as consisting of four genders, defined by the cross product of personal plumbing and mating preference.

February 26, 2008 7:25 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

My son was in Scouts until girls discovered him.

The prohibition of homosexual Scout leaders does not prevent homosexuals from being Scout leaders.

I kept my eyes open.

Kind of ironic, though, because Baden-Powell was homosexual.

February 26, 2008 8:08 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

But what are the consequences?

Scouting isn't about mating, is it?

February 26, 2008 9:25 PM  
Blogger Barry Meislin said...

Not mating, exactly.

Tying knots.

February 27, 2008 3:45 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Barry, that is screamingly funny.

I think it's time for some Saul Alinsky tactics on this one. How about the Scouts enter a float in Gay Pride Day? "Best Wishes from the Other Gender."

February 27, 2008 6:43 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

It's all funny until someone loses an eye...

Let the Boy Scouts make their own rules and admit or exclude to their hearts' privately rationalized content.

But should the longstanding history of their beneficial effects alone justify continued subsidy at the public trough despite the bigotry in their rules for membership?

Just as the innate disposition toward homosexuality has undeniable consequences (such as being denied membership in some private organizations), so should there be consequences to making invidious distinctions among potential members for one's otherwise well-meaning, good-works-engaged private club.

February 27, 2008 12:05 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Ionbud, either the BSA get a public subsidy or they're a private club? Which is it?

February 27, 2008 1:00 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

erp:

Not sure I understand the question, but if the BSA does get a public subsidy, it should not discriminate against homosexuals in its admission policy.

On the other hand, as a private organization, it's welcome to discriminate in admissions however it pleases but doing so ought to preclude it from eligibility for public assistance.

February 27, 2008 4:11 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Bret:

But what are the consequences?

Scouting isn't about mating, is it?


In the post, I shifted feet to see how the shoe fits.

No one pitches a fit for the Girl Scouts excluding male scoutmasters, never mind making it nearly impossible for fathers to accompany their daughters on Girl Scout camping expeditions.

Why? Because no one questions the potential consequences of including a gender with the potential desire to mate with the girls. For the huge majority, at least 90%, of men, brain and plumbing are consonant, which is why we reflexively defer to plumbing in dealing with these issues.

Similarly, no one questions excluding girls from being Boy Scouts, or vice versa.

I would have thought the Catholic Church's travails in this area would be warning enough that ignoring the fact there is more to gender than plumbing isn't going to go well for anybody.

lonbud:

If it is bigoted to exclude gays from membership in Boy Scouts, why is it not bigoted to exclude them from the Girl Scouts?

Barry:

What Peter said -- that was hilarious.

February 27, 2008 4:25 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

It is bigoted of the Girl Scouts to exclude gays, if indeed that is their policy.

I presume the impetus for the discussion on this thread is less wisdom or justifications behind excluding gays from membership in certain groups and more the question of whether groups that do exclude gays -- without regard to their reasons for doing so -- should be entitled to public subsidies.

From my perspective, the answer to that question is they should not be so entitled.

February 27, 2008 7:03 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

lonbud:

It is bigoted of the Girl Scouts to exclude gays, if indeed that is their policy.

By gays, I meant male homosexuals; that is the vernacular, but perhaps I should have been more clear. That is the meaning I will use from here out, to save typing.

I presume the impetus for the discussion on this thread is less wisdom or justifications behind excluding gays from membership in certain groups and more the question of whether groups that do exclude gays -- without regard to their reasons for doing so -- should be entitled to public subsidies.

The impetus is that some criteria for exclusions make sense. So much so that we don't even remark upon them. No one considers the Girl Scouts bigoted for excluding boys, or male troop leaders, or fathers from camping trips.

Do you consider the Girl Scouts bigoted for excluding gays?

If not, then why do you consider Boy Scouts bigoted?

Plumbing had best not be the criteria you use, or you need to rethink your use of the term "innate" above.

February 27, 2008 9:29 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Skipper,
I'm not sure about their policy on camping trips, but the GSA does allow adult males to participate. I became a member of GSA when my daughter was a member. I was the troop's "Cookie Dad". Our troop didn't go on camping trips, but they did go on field trips, at which I was welcome to accompany them. To become a member I had to undergo a background check, naturally.

Also, I'm not sure that they discriminate against female homosexuals as members.

They also do not discriminate against atheists, which the BSA does. There is no god oath in the Girl Scouts.

I've seen the Boy Scouts being denied public accommodation in other places as much for their religious discrimination as their homosexual discrimination. Not understanding the religious dynamics of your family, is your son's and wife's participation due to their not sharing your religious views or to laxness on the part of your local organization in enforcing rules?

February 28, 2008 5:14 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

hey skipper,

Let's ignore the gay scoutmaster scenario for a moment.

How about a gay boy, say 16 years old, who wants to be a scout.

What are the consequences of that boy joining the troop? If it's neither immoral to be gay and it's innate (therefore the innately non-gay members of the troop won't be tempted towards homosexuality), it doesn't seem to me that there are any consequences at all.

February 28, 2008 8:07 AM  
Blogger David said...

Oddly enough, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation doesn't seem to be illegal in Pennsylvania (with the possible exception of Pittsburgh). Maybe Philadelphia should consider the beam in its own eye before kicking the Boy Scouts out of their headquarters because of the mote in their eye, to paraphrase a famous Rabbi.

Of course, if Philadelphia were using any other reason as an excuse to evict a charity out of property that can be rented for $200,000 a year, this story might have gotten a different spin.

February 28, 2008 8:14 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

It sounds like the GSA has a relatively more enlightened outlook than does the BSA, though, for clarity's sake I'll restate my own position:

If a private organization discriminates in its admissions policy against anyone based on sexual preference alone, the organization should be ineligible to receive public funding or subsidy.

Clearly, the BSA has a strong institutional bias against homosexuality. Without making any sort of judgment as to the wisdom or justifiability of that bias, I believe it should disqualify the BSA from public assistance.

February 28, 2008 8:27 AM  
Blogger erp said...

lonbud, do you have a link to something showing public subsidies for the BSA. It's a long time since my boys were scouts, but I don't remember any subsidies, certainly not at the local level.

February 28, 2008 9:59 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

As a lad, I was both a Boy
Scout and a Girl Scout. At least, my mom the GS leader took me to all their meetings.

As a dad myself, I went on GS camping trips. There was no background check.

As to this particular dispute, it is my understanding that the Philadelphia government has some real problems it needs to be dealing with, and this cannot be one of them.

As to the general dispute, I have the same question about homosexual boy scouts as I had about homosexual employees when I was responsible for hiring -- how am I supposed to know?

February 28, 2008 11:31 AM  
Blogger lonbud said...

erp:

I only inferred a public subsidy from the original article. There are lots of unresolved questions of legal status and questions of fact in the particular case that make a precise discussion difficult.

That's why I tried to state my position in the most general, inclusive terms possible.

Private organizations (even charitable ones) are free to discriminate in any way they may choose, but should not expect to be eligible for public assistance in the bargain.

February 28, 2008 12:24 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Duck:

I'm not sure about their policy on camping trips, but the GSA does allow adult males to participate.

I tried to go on a camping trip once. In theory, it is possible for dads to go along. Just as, in theory, it is possible to use black holes for time travel.

Also, I'm not sure [the GSA discriminates] against female homosexuals as members.

I have no idea whether they do, either; but that isn't what I was talking about. I blame my use of the word "gay" as unambiguous shorthand for "male homosexual". I should have been more specific.

The GSA will not allow male homosexuals as members, yet no one ostracizes them for that. Why?

Be careful about going down the plumbing road when answering that question.

Not understanding the religious dynamics of your family, is your son's and wife's participation due to their not sharing your religious views or to laxness on the part of your local organization in enforcing rules?

I have done my level best to restrict my religious discussions to blogging. No doubt I did so imperfectly, but I doubt anyone, not even Peter, would, if he was a fly on the wall, contend I had indoctrinated them in any way.

However, they have derived their own views. Coincidentally, my daughter's crystallized as a consequence of the Biblical injunctions against male homosexuals. As most here know, my brother is gay.

My kids, for good reason, think he is wonderful.

A couple years ago, my daughter's best friend started the Catholic religious education leading to confirmation. Subsequently, my daughter's friend related, unsparing of detail, precisely how evil my brother is, and how he will spend eternity in hell.

As you might imagine, that led to some questions. My answers could be summarized as "your friend is repeating stone age ignorance." My daughter attempted to reconcile these fruits of religious education with her observations of reality.

And failed. In her case, so much the worse for religion.

My son's approach has much more direct: he thinks the whole thing is a load of hooey. I think getting an explanation of vicarious redemption from his religious grandmother put him over the edge.

My wife, with nothing more than a Catholic education to go on, loathes organized religion. She prefers to think there is something more to our existence than this material world. On the whole, though, she would have to be sound asleep to care less about the whole topic.

Yes, the Boy Scouts insist its members believe in God.

While leaving the word completely undefined, and never mentioning religion; rreligious inculcation (at least the several troops we have been in) goes not one step past where one gets with the words " ... under God ... " in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I did help my son square the circle by suggesting God is an invisible force, always with us, pervading the entire universe at all times, and without which life would be impossible. In other words, God is a three letter word for gravity.

Should my son make an issue of his beliefs, I have no doubt he would get the boot. But he likes scouting, and recognizes an empty exercise when he sees one.

Of course, this is precisely the same approach a boy who is gay, and wishes to be a Boy Scout, could take.

The Scouts have made absolutely no effort to impose any sort of religious belief upon my son; nor do the scouts impose any sort of heterosexuality. For my son to confront people with his beliefs, or a gay scout to engage in a similar confrontation, is to resist completely nonexistent attack.

Bret:

If it's neither immoral to be gay and it's innate (therefore the innately non-gay members of the troop won't be tempted towards homosexuality), it doesn't seem to me that there are any consequences at all.

Presuming that such a boy would not ever attempt to actualize his innate preference -- since I have no reason that gays emotional attraction to males, the unmentioned flip side of your coin, is any less powerful than my attraction at that age was to girls, I think that a stretch -- then there are no consequences. No matter. For the sake of argument, I'll accept your point

Considering that, in my experience, sex comes up in Scouting with roughly the same frequency as discussions about returning to the gold standard, the Boys Scouts prohibition against gay members has the same real world impact as its insistence upon believing in God.

None.


lonbud:

If a private organization discriminates in its admissions policy against anyone based on sexual preference alone, the organization should be ineligible to receive public funding or subsidy.

Then how come the Girl Scouts get to exclude male homosexuals?

Without making any sort of judgment as to the wisdom or justifiability of that bias, I believe it should disqualify the BSA from public assistance.

It appears you advocate effect without cause. Or, at the very least, wisdom and justification have no place in illuminating our decisions.

Curious.

Remind me again how it is the Girl Scouts get to exclude male homosexuals?

February 28, 2008 12:57 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

HS:

If the GSA "gets" to exclude male homosexuals, it's only because they "get" to exclude all males.

Though, as Harry's anecdote would make the case appear to be, they may not exclude males as a matter of stated policy.

Should it be a matter of stated policy to exclude male homosexuals as a discrete group, such a policy should disqualify them, too, from public assistance, in my view.

I believe you misread my desire to keep out of the discussion consideration of the wisdom or justification of excluding homosexuals from membership in a private club.

The only point I am trying to clarify here is that such a policy ought to bar any club so configured from a grant of public assistance.

February 28, 2008 4:28 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I haven't been a GS dad for about 12 years now, so perhaps they have changed the rules.

February 28, 2008 5:57 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

lonbud:

If the GSA "gets" to exclude male homosexuals, it's only because they "get" to exclude all males.

Gender is all about plumbing, except that it is innate, and has nothing to do with plumbing.

With that, you step right into queer reasoning.

February 28, 2008 7:55 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

I don't follow, Skipper.

If homosexual males are excluded from membership in a group as part of a policy to exclude all males, then they are not, therefore, being excluded due to their homosexuality, per se.

Now, we can talk about the wisdom or propriety of excluding males from the GSA, but the 'queer reasoning' aspect of the discussion must remain tied to the exclusion of male homosexuals due to their sexual preference, or else it's not relevant.

February 29, 2008 9:26 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

lonbud:

This is where you and the Philadelphia City Council engage in queer reasoning.

On the one hand, we are defined solely by our plumbing.

On the other, being homosexual, whether female or male, is innate and puts plumbing on disregard.

You can't have it both ways.

The GSA excludes boys because their (excluding gays, of course) sexual preference is for girls. The BSA excludes girls for that very reason.

Yet as soon as you reduce people to their plumbing, you get the odd result of it being perfectly OK to exclude half the population due to sexual preference, yet are unable to add a couple percent to that list for precisely the same reason.

Almost as queerly, you veer dangerously close to the same argument of which the Boy Scouts would be well shot: if we are defined solely by our plumbing, then homosexuality is a choice, and as such is therefore open to condemnation on moral grounds.

Which is why I said in the post that the BSA should take the LGBT argument as given, and simply state their policy is to exclude everyone whose sexual preference is for males.

To accept without question that it is OK on that basis to exclude girls -- after all, what other reason is there? -- yet not be able to exclude gays is to adopt a position that runs into itself face first before so much as making it to the front door.

February 29, 2008 3:27 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

HS:

I think you are analyzing this into far more complicated a quandry than is necessary.

I don't believe the GSA excludes boys (or that the BSA excludes girls) due to some presumed sexual preference on the part of either their members, or on the part of the members of the excluded group.

Boys are excluded from the GSA because they are not girls. It is, and well it should be, in the context of what the GSA and BSA represent, a matter of plumbing.

If you exclude all non-conforming plumbing configurations from your group, you don't need to address whether or not you might approve of how the non-conforming configurations desire their plumbing to be used.

Where the BSA runs afoul of anti-discrimination principles is in excluding ostensibly conforming plumbing configurations based on a moral judgment about how the plumbing might wish to be used.

February 29, 2008 3:53 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

lonbud:

Plumbing has no wishes.

Which makes

Boys are excluded from the GSA because they are not girls. It is, and well it should be, in the context of what the GSA and BSA represent, a matter of plumbing.

perplexing.

February 29, 2008 5:19 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

How about

Girls are sugar and spice and everything nice; Boys are snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.

I'm really unclear on what seems so difficult for you here...

February 29, 2008 5:56 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Yes or no:

Does plumbing have any wishes?

February 29, 2008 7:04 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Umm... yes.

March 01, 2008 10:33 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

So I guess that means fingers and toes also have wishes.

No wonder you have trouble separating bigotry from a meaningful distinction.

March 02, 2008 12:47 PM  

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