|"People are like a beautiful rainbow with many different colors. I'm glad rainbows
are not just one color. Life would be pretty boring!"
Steven Cozza , Eagle
The Boy Scouts of America is a great program with one BAD thing. It discriminates
against gay youth and adults. No one should be discriminated against. The Boy Scouts of America does not even follow
its own Scout Law when it discriminates against gay people. The Scout Law says a scout... should treat others as
he would want to be treated. I don't know anyone who wants to be discriminated against the way the Boy Scouts of
America discriminates against gays. I am ashamed of that. We scouts have to teach our leadership how to live by
their own Scout Law. Lets make the Boy Scouts of America a program for all youth. My dad went to Geneva. He spoke
to officials at the Scouting World Headquarters. He found out that there are about 150 countries or associations.
Of those 150 countries two-thirds of them allow girls in scouting. How come the Boy Scouts of America is one of
only 50 countries in the world that doesn't allow girls. In fact the Scouting World Headquarters changed its name
from Boy Scout World Headquarters in 1973 to acknowledge girls in scouting. I am in 4-H. Girls are allowed in 4-H.
We go on camping outings together and it is a lot of fun. They did not have any numbers on what countries allow
gays in scouting. But I know a few who do: England, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. I
know there are more. In America, 4-H and the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. allow gays, lesbians, transgenders, and
bisexuals in their youth programs. 4-H and Girl Scouts are great programs. According to the Boy Scouts of America
4-H and the Girl Scouts are not following family values because they let gays in and they can't be morally straight
organizations. Morally straight means to live by your values, to be true to yourself. It has nothing to do with
a person's sexual orientation.
Gay youth and adults should be allowed in scouting. The leading cause of
death for gay youth is suicide. Gay youth feel rejected. The Boy Scouts of America's policy only makes things worse.
We should be kind to one another. People are different. The world is diverse. People are like a rainbow with many
different colors. Rainbows are beautiful. I'm glad rainbows are not just one color. And you know something? I don't
think if you believe in God that God would discriminate against something God created. God created gay people and
I know he loves gay people just like he loves transgenders, bisexuals, and lesbians. Then why does the Boy Scouts
of America discriminate against gays?
Lets work together to help make the Boy Scouts of America a morally straight
organization for all kids to experience. The Boy Scouts of America is a great program for kids. That is why I am
a Boy Scout. I love scouting. As a good scout should, I'm just trying to make this Earth a better place. As my
dad says, life is to short not to take a stand against social injustice. Please take a stand with me.
Life Rank Scout
Boy Scouts of America Don't Keep Their Own Oath
By Steven Cozza
The Boy Scouts of America is a great program for kids. That's why I'm a Boy Scout. I love scouting.
Yet the Boy Scouts of America is a great program with one BAD thing. It discriminates against gay youth and adults.
The Scout Law says a scout "should treat others as he would want to be treated." But how could anyone
want to be discriminated against the way the Boy Scouts of America discriminates against gays?
I am an Eagle Scout and I took the Scout Oath and uphold Scout laws, but I cannot support the Boy Scouts of America's
discrimination against gay youth and adults. I am ashamed of that.
All of my life I have been taught to accept all people, to help other people in need, and to love one another even
if we are different. Scouting helped teach me these values. People are like a rainbow with many different colors.
Rainbows are beautiful. I'm glad rainbows are not just one color. Then why does the Boy Scouts of America discriminate
When I learned about Scouts policy of discrimination against gays, I couldn't understand how the same organization
that was so important to my development could turn its back on so many young people. The leading cause of death
for gay youth is suicide. Gay youth feel rejected. The Boy Scouts of America's policy only makes things worse.
I knew I had to work to change their policy. As my Dad says, being a good scout and adult leader means standing
against social injustice even if that social injustice is being committed by your own organization.
I have had some role models in my experiences and some of them are gay. Their influence, like the Boy Scouts',
made me into the person that I am.
Many other straight people feel the same as I do " that the world is diverse and we should not take away people's
rights just because they are different." I'vee started to hang signs around my high school with others who
feel as I do, inviting teachers and students to form a Gay/Straight Alliance with me to help end social injustice.
Right now, James Dale is defending his right to be a scout in New Jersey. The National Council of the Boy Scouts
of America has appealed to the Supreme Court for their right to keep him out. With this case, the Boy Scouts of
America sends out a dangerous message to the public, scouts and adult leaders that people who are gay do not have
family values and don't live moral lives. That message is perpetuating old hurtful stereotypes.
I know people who are gay who hold the same family values that I do. To be "morally straight" means to
live by your values, to be true to yourself. It has nothing to do with a person's sexual orientation.
The Boy Scouts of America places all gay people into one category, negating diversity and uniqueness. They claim
that there is such a thing as a "gay" way of believing. But there are conservative, liberal and moderate
people who are gay. They come from all walks of life and represent every segment of society.
Would they use that same logic when describing heterosexual people?
According to the Boy Scouts of America, other youth organizations are not following family values because they
let gays in and therefore cannot be "morally straight." The National Council likes to use the term "family
values." Do they want us to believe that discrimination is a familyvalue?
Intolerance is not a Boy Scout virtue. So no matter what the Supreme Court decides, I'll keep telling people about
this policy and encouraging individual Boy Scout Troops to come up with their own anti-discrimination statements.
There is no room in scouting for bigotry and discrimination.
As a good scout should, I'm just trying to make scouting better for everyone.
Petaluma, CA., High School freshman, Steven Cozza, is a 2000 Colin Higgins Courage Award winner, and co-founder
of Scouting For All. Steven and his sister Anne helped start a gay/straight alliance at their high school this
year. They had over 40 kids at their first meeting last week
THE LETTER THAT INSPIRED THE SCOUTING FOR ALL MOVEMENT:
THE COURAGE OF A BRAVE BOY SCOUT
The Scout Law
Editor: I am 12 years old and a Life rank Boy Scout. I like scouting a lot. My troop does a lot of outdoor activities. I am writing to you because I want people to know that the Boy Scouts of America is a great program but it won't allow gay kids or grownups in scouting.
The Scout Law says a scout is true to his friends... nation... world community. This is not true when not everyone is included in that community. The Scout Law says a scout should be helpful. A scout should be concerned about other people. This is not true for the Boy Scouts of America when it bans gays or expels them when they are found out.
The Scout Law says a scout should be friendly to all. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with different ideas and customs. This is not true when the Boy Scouts of America bans gays from scouting.
The Scout Law says a scout should be kind. He should treat others as he would want to be treated. I don't know anyone who wants to be discriminated against the way the Boy Scouts of America discriminates against gays. My dad and I were told we can't even bring this issue up at our troop meeting with the other scouts in our troop.
I hope to change this one bad thing about the Boy Scouts of America. I hope all of you who read this letter to the editor will also want to help me in my efforts by calling Scouting For All at 707-778-0564. Gay kids should be allowed to be scouts. And I know kids who have gay dads would want their dads to be able to be an assistant scoutmaster like my dad.
Steven Cozza, Life Boy Scout
December 27, 1997
Steven Cozza's Speech For The Labor and Social Action Summer School Conference
My name is Steven Cozza. I am 14 years old and will be a freshman at Petaluma H.S. in the Fall. I am also proud to say that I'm an Eagle Scout.
What I Did
I am ashamed of the Boy Scouts of America's policy of discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders and bisexuals.
When my dad told me about the BSA discrimination, I was 12 and I couldn't believe it. I was ashamed of the program I liked so much.
I decided to do something to try and change the Boy Scouts policy of discrimination. I couldn't see myself staying in scouting unless I tried to do something.
I worked on the Citizenship of the Nation merit badge. The 4th requirement asked you to pick a national issue and write to a government official.
The issue I chose was the Boy Scouts of America discrimination against gay people.
I wrote to Senator Burton, Boxer, Feinstein, Congress person Woolsey, Assembly person Mazzoni. They all were supportive but offered no answers or solutions.
I got sort of discouraged because I asked them for help and for suggestions and they just wrote back saying what they have done for gay people.
I shared with my dad that I did not say the Scout Law out of protest at the Boy Scout meetings because the Boy Scouts of America did not follow their own Scout Law when they discriminate.
My dad suggested I write a letter to the editor about the Scout Law and how the Boy Scouts of America violate their own scout law.
I did write a letter and I received several hundred phone calls and letters of support.
After getting such strong support, I decided to do a petition drive to try and get the policy changed through a grass roots effort. I wasn't going through the courts. Through the petition drive, I hope to rally people in America and around the world to put pressure on the Boy Scouts of America to change its policy. Most people don't know the Boys Scouts Organization discriminates. The petition drive is a way to educate and rally people. Most people don't know the boy Scouts of America discriminates. When they find out they are surprised and are against them discriminating.
I called a press conference on January 17, 1998 and we have been going strong ever since.
We have over 35,000 signatures from all 50 states and 18 different countries.When the Sweden Scout Association found out about the Boy Scouts of America discriminating against gays they wrote to the BSA and told them that they should not discriminate. They said discrimination goes against the tradition of scouting and violates the Scout Law and Oath.
We have our own Scouting for All web page (www.scoutingforall.org)
We have become a 501C-3 Federal Tax exempt non-profit organization.
We have a Scouting for All Board of Directors where decisions are made now. Before it was my dad and I making all the decisions. Now we have to go through our Board.
My dad has applied for and received grants.
We are now planning to ask to meet with the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America to talk with them about changing their policy.
We are going to begin to ask troops across the country to write letters of protest to the BSA stating they will not discriminate.
My dad and I have formed our own Boy Scout Troop through the BSA and will model for other troops our openness to the diversity of the human family.
Why I Did What I Did
I've taken my stand against discrimination because discrimination is really wrong.
I know and have many gay friends. It hurts me to see them hurt by such a mean policy. One man called me up and was crying because he had been kicked out when he was a kid. He couldn't believe that someone would stand up for him. He wished someone would have stood up for him when he was a kid.
The Boy Scouts policy of discrimination just teaches us scouts that it's ok to discriminate. In fact, did you know Matthew Shepherd when he was a little kid, was a cub scout?
When he grew up, he realized he was gay. He went to college in Wyoming and was murdered by an Eagle Scout. I'm sure the murder of Matthew Shepherd did not get any messages from the Boy Scouts of America that gay people were normal like anyone else.
When I heard that the Boy Scouts say gays are not normal, I say what's sick and not normal are people and organizations that discriminate and hurt or kill people because they are gay.
The Boy Scouts of America's policy of discrimination is sick and hurtful to both gay and straight kids.
I've dedicated my effort in the memory of Robin Reed, a Petaluma gay kid who took his own life because he felt like he didn't belong and to all gay youth who have taken their lives because they felt rejected. The Boy Scouts of America's policy of rejection of gay youth and adults just makes this problem worse for gay youth.
The Boy Scouts of America should be teaching our youth and scouts to love and help make the earth a better place. Instead, they are teaching us scouts to reject someone because that someone is GAY.
Whatever you do in your life, remember life is a special gift and we should use that gift to reach out to those less fortunate than we may be or to those that are experiencing a social injustice.
If one person in our community is being discriminated against and hurt, then we all should feel that hurt and reach out to help.
Ask yourself if you heard a cry for help, would you run to help or run the other way?
That is a question we will have to answer sometime in our life. The scout motto says "Be prepared"!
Know in your heart what you would do ahead of time. Do we stand in the light and shout or do we hide in the darkness of night as the cries for help go on and on and on? I have decided to take a stand.
How Have People Reacted to What I'm Doing?
At first some kids made fun of me at school. They called me gay. I'd tell them what's wrong with being gay. Being gay is normal (Steven is not gay but does not feel a need to tell those who make fun of him that he is not gay because in his heart he believes that if he were gay he'd be proud of being gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual).
I also have gotten death threats. My dad was kicked out of my troop and Mr. Rice was kicked out of scouting because they believe that people who are gay should be allowed in scouting. Before I got my Eagle award adult leaders of my troop and the district council told me that I did not believe in the Scout Oath or Law and that I did not have the Spirit of an Eagle Scout. I just told them that I did. I asked where did they hear that and told them it was the Boy Scouts of America who doesn't follow its own Scout Law and Oath when they discriminate against people who are gay.
Most people have been very supportive and encouraging.
Steven Cozza, Eagle Scout, Panel Member Presentation
July 10, 1999
Sonoma State University
Sponsored by the North Bay Central Labor Council
Twelve Year Old Boy Scout Steven Cozza's Two Letters to Jerry Ratcliffe, Chief Scout Executive, BSA 1998
(Mr. Ratcliffe never responded back to Steven)
January 19, 1998
Boy Scouts of America
Mr. Jerry Ratcliffe, Chief Scout Executive
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
Dear Mr. Jerry Ratcliffe,
My name is Steven Cozza. I am a 12 year old Life Scout and I live in Petaluma, California. I would like to find out form the headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America, about the current status of the policy which excludes gay youth and adults from being in Scouts.
I am working very hard to get this policy changed. In gathering signatures, I am seeing that there is a lot of support to change this policy to include all kids in America. In just one day, I got 650 signatures in front of Lucky's Market. Many politicians, two clergymen, scout leaders, family members with gay siblings who took their lives, all spoke at the press conference I organized last Saturday, January 17, 1998. They all support changing the current rule that discriminates against one piece of our American people - the gay!
What is really wrong with allowing gays in scouting? The Boy Scouts just teaches kids to discriminate by not allowing gay youth or adults in scouting. I'm tired of the poor role model excuse. Gay adults were taught by heterosexual teaches and they didn't turn out heterosexual. Some heterosexual people were taught by gay teachers and they didn't turn out gay. Why can gay adults be pediatricians, dentists, teachers, coaches, camp counselors if they are so bad? And pedophiles molest children, not gays!
I think people are afraid of them and until they get to know someone who is gay they will never get over their homophobia and realize the wonderful things they contribute to our society. We just have to learn to appreciate their difference
like everyone else. As far as I'm concerned, they are part of MY RAINBOW! As I said on TV, "The colors of the rainbow are what make it so beautiful. That's how I see our world. What a lousy world we'd have if it were all one color or
everyone were just alike."
Many people have called me with their very sad stories about being excluded from scouting. I never knew how many people have been affected by this rule. I don't think in today's world that being a good scout should mean excluding anyone from the wonderful opportunities scouting has given me. I love being in the Boy Scouts of America. I enjoy my troop members and all the great outings we go on! Scouts has taught me so much but I just can't turn my back on its discriminatory policy.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my thoughts. Please write back to me about any discussions or revisions that might be in the works. I will continue to work very hard to spread public awareness and to educate others on this very important issue. I believe this rule discriminates and I am going to work very hard to get the policy changed. I have people from many different states call me wanting to support SCOUTING FOR ALL. I feel what I'm doing will make the boy Scouts of America a better program. Like my dad said, "Right now the Boy Scouts of America has one major character flaw, it discriminates against gay youth and adults." I'm a shamed of that and so are millions of other people in America.
signed: Steven Cozza, Life Scout
PS My sister Anne just told me (She's 15 and plays basketball.) That in the late 1800s women were allowed to play basketball and have games but the men were not allowed to watch them play. Can you believe it? I'm glad that rule changed
because my sister is a star basketball player at her school and I would hate not to be able to watch her play basketball.
Boy Scouts of America
Mr. Jerry Ratcliffe, Chief Scout Executive
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
Dear Mr. Jerry Ratcliffe,
Hi, I'm Steven Cozza. I'm a 12 year old Life Scout. I live in Petaluma, California. I wrote to you last month. I would like to find out from you about the current status of the policy which discriminates against gay kids and adults from being in the Scouts. I have not heard from you and would like you to read and respond to my letter. I have enclosed a copy of the letter I sent you dated, January 19, 1998.
The Boy Scouts of America say that gay people don't follow family values. How can the BSA say that gay people don't have family values? There are gay families and lesbian families with children who teach their kids family values. Family values to me means to accept all people and not to discriminate against anyone. Family values to me means to help other people in need and to love one another even if we are different. Family values means to me to respect other people. My parents have taught me that the world is like a rainbow with many different colors. This world would be boring if the rainbow was only one color. And then you say that gays are not morally straight because they love each other. That does not even make sense. We need more people to love one another. The Boy Scouts of America is not morally straight when it discriminates against anyone, in this case gay people. How can that be good? I would like to know who made up such a mean policy. And I'd like to see a copy of it. Please send me a copy. I believe my effort to get this discriminatory policy changed will only improve the Boy Scouts of America because it will then become a morally straight organization like 4-H which I belong to and also like the girl Scouts of America. My dad told me the boy Scouts of America is the only youth organization which discriminates against gay kids.
I will continue to work hard on changing this mean policy. I am not giving up. People around the country and even in other parts of the world have notified me that they are signing my petition and support getting your discriminatory policy against gay people changed. The whole "rainbow" of people are supporting my campaign.
signed: Steven Cozza, Life Scout