Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor
From Fox News:
Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.
Scouting for All is a 100% Volunteer 501-(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization. Every dollar donated goes toward our education and advocacy programs, and is tax deductible.
No girls allowed
December 5, 2007
By Lisa Bloom
As I read the headlines about the Augusta National Golf Club's insistence on clinging to its all-male membership policy, I thought of my former client, 12-year-old Katrina Yeaw. Her firm belief that fairness would prevail never faltered, even after she lost her case. What does an optimistic preteen have to do with today's opening of the prestigious Masters tournament? Read on.
Katrina was a straight-A student; that was immediately evident when I met her. The sixth-grader spoke clearly and articulately as she sat in my Los Angeles law firm in 1995 and told me she wanted to join the Boy Scouts. Now, admittedly I am a sucker for smart, feisty girls, but still, my first reaction was, "Why not just join the Girl Scouts? Isn't that basically the same thing?" Patiently Katrina explained to me (as she had already done, convincingly, to her skeptical, small-town scout leader dad) that she had tried the Girl Scouts, and they were very nice, but she had found that her local troop spent a lot of time gluing together arts and crafts projects and selling cookies. Meanwhile her twin brother, a Boy Scout, was going camping monthly and learning serious wilderness survival skills, the stuff Katrina was more interested in. And, she pointed out, the Boy Scouts had exponentially more funding, emphasized leadership skills, and colleges and employers gave automatic bonus points to applicants who had achieved its highest distinction, Eagle Scout. The two organizations sounded similar but were not the same.
Katrina was sure she could become an Eagle Scout if they would just let her try. The girl had thought this all through, and her earnest demeanor told me that she had concluded that if she could just get the adults to understand the obvious fairness of her point of view, the messy little matter would be all tidied up and she'd be earning her merit badges in no time. Perhaps by dinner time.
I thought Katrina made a good point, and I investigated further. I learned that in the 1970s and '80s, thanks to the work of my mothers' generation of feminists, nearly every formerly single-sex organization had integrated. Camp Fire Girls had become Camp Fire Boys and Girls; Little League let girls play alongside the boys; Boys' Clubs had become Boys' and Girls' Clubs; and even that bastion of wild-eyed liberalism, the U.S. Supreme Court, had ordered the Rotary Clubs and the New York Club Association to admit women. Throughout Europe, Australia and South America, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were just Scouts -- integrated, co-ed, no exclusion, no problem. Only in the U.S., Saudi Arabia and a handful of other Middle Eastern countries was scouting still rigidly divided by gender.
Katrina wasn't looking for a lawsuit. She'd met behind the scenes with the local scout leader, trying to find a quiet way to work the issue out. The boys in her town welcomed her to join their scout troops. When I spoke to these boys, I was charmed by their befuddlement over the entire issue. Of course Katrina could join, they said, why not? What's the problem? Nevertheless, she and a few girlfriends proposed that they start their own troop, just to make the transition as comfortable as possible for everyone. Katrina's dad said that the local leader thought she showed initiative, strong organizational and social skills, and was happy to adopt her plan. But when the national organization, Boy Scouts of America, heard of th is diabolical plot, its lawyer sent her a hostile letter which in effect nailed a giant "No Girls Allowed" sign on the door.
Throughout the prosecution of the sex discrimination lawsuit I filed on Katrina's behalf, this young girl endured the hostility of her small town neighbors, statewide radio talk show hosts attacking her character, and insinuations about her family in the court papers filed by the Boy Scouts' attorneys. Through it all, Katrina held fast to her ideal that it was unfair to be excluded from a kids' group for which she was clearly well qualified simply because she was born female. She just kept asserting her points, calmly and cogently. (Incidentally, she was the only client I ever had who read Shakespeare, just for fun, during the court breaks -- the comedies, I noticed, which have a lot of gender bending, and always have that happy ending.)
I've had many adult clients fall apart after vicious public attacks against them over their attempts to move civil rights forward. I'd get their calls late at night, and I'd have to remind them to shore up their family and professional support systems. But Katrina was unflappable. Through setbacks at the trial court and Court of Appeals, Katrina just kept reminding me that she could carry a backpack or lead a group of her peers as well as any boy, and that it was only a matter of time before some court recognized it.
Katrina wasn't my only juvenile client to look me right in the eye and show me a simple, firm belief in the merits of her position. The kids I represented in child sexual abuse cases never doubted that once they'd found the strength to bring their molester to justice, they would be believed. I have often been inspired by kids' strong, innate sense of justice, and their unshakable optimism that if we adults will only l isten to and really hear their point of view, we will surely come around, because everyone thinks fairness is important, don't they?
Katrina's case was accepted by the California Supreme Court, but ultimately it was dismissed without a hearing when that court ruled in a related case, brought by a gay Eagle Scout, that the Boy Scouts was a private organization that had a legal right to discriminate on any grounds it saw fit.
The largest and richest youth organization in the world, the Boy Scouts of America, private? The Augusta National Golf Club, which invites cameras in for lucrative television contracts, private? I'll spare you the dozens of pages in my legal brief on this point. Suffice it to say that if your organization invites the world in, literally, and generates enormous revenues from doing so, that's not private. I agree that if we can't eliminate it entirely, discrimination should be considered a dirty little secret that ought to be kept as private as possible, certainly out of view of impressionable children. If young Katrina can see your open and notorious keep-out policies, you haven't kept it private enough for my taste.
When it was clear that Katrina had lost her case and there were no more possible appeals, she refused to be jaded. Last I heard she was going to start her own inclusive kids' organization, or become a surgeon. Maybe both. A bunch of robe-wearing adults who didn't get it weren't going to stop her. She didn't lose her ideals, her confidence in her own potential or her faith that the world would eventually come around to basic fairness. She spoke to me of history, of how long women had to wait for the right to vote. She'd looked it up.
I know that Augusta National and many of its corporate sponsors will continue to cling desperately to their old ways, as dying regimes sometimes do in the face of historical change that everyone but them can see. The civil rights protesters won't change things this year, and maybe not next. Hootie Johnson, chairman of Augusta National, seems to have dug in to his anti-integration position. And he's not alone. "This equal rights stuff has gotten out of hand," Joseph J. Harper, imperial wizard of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said recently, throwing his group's support behind Augusta.
Hootie may be able to argue his position in the media, but I don't think he could truly explain to Katrina why she isn't allowed to be part of his organization, or why he's on the same side as the KKK. History will look at the last male-only holdouts of this generation the same way we see the reputable business leaders of the last generation who defended the KKK. If you can't justify your moral position to a fair-minded 12-year-old, it's time to pack your bags.