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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.

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Steven's Anti-Defamation League Youth Conference Speech, San Diego, California, 12/17/01

Anti-Defamation League 12th Annual Student Human Relations Conference
Theme: Empowering Youth to be Advocates

1. How is everyone doing?

I'm very honored to be here today to speak to you, at the 12th Annual Student Human Relations Conference sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League here in San Diego, California.

I want to begin my talk by first recognizing the Anti-Defamation League. The Anti-Defamation League is an organization that symbolizes the courage and compassion it takes to stand against social injustice. You know it is not easy to take a stand against social injustice. Even if you feel strong about doing something to help stop discrimination and to reach out to others it is difficult to do it alone. It's great that our society is blessed to have the Anti-Defamation League to provide us support and encouragement to stand together against social injustice. The courage of the Anti-Defamation League and other social justice organizations and groups such as GLSEN, the Southern Poverty Law Center and PFLAG is demonstrated by its reaching out to often times hostile environments, sometimes these environments are schools, with a message of acceptance, respect, and dignity that should be afforded all Americans. The Anti-Defamation League stands against bigotry and hatred as Scouting for All does with education, love and compassion.

2.I'm going to begin my talk by reading a poem titled "Remember Me" written by Robbie Kirkland, a 15 year old gay kid who killed himself because he felt rejected. He felt like he didn't belong.

Poems by Robbie Kirkland
"Remember Me" I may be gone, but I hope I'm not forgotten. Remember me. (9-1-94)
"I'm Dying and No One Cares" I try to stand and walk I fall to the hard cold ground. It feels as if to life I'm no longer bound. The others look and laugh at my plight. Blood pours from my nose, I am not a pretty sight. I try to stand and again but fall To the others I call But they don't care The pain is unbearable The world is not fair I'm lost and cold I wish one would lend a hand to hold My tears mix with my blood The end of my life It nears I'm Dying and no one cares The pain. The pain. THE PAIN! I scream in pain! My body shakes in violent spasms I cry out in pain again! I scream My blood pours like a stream I'm Dying and no one cares I scream in pain one last time and then it's over. I am Dead and no one cares.
Robbie was born on February 22, 1982. He killed himself on January 2, 1997 when he was 15. A time in his life he should have been dreaming about becoming whoever he wanted to be. Instead he was struggling with the bigotry of homophobia. It was homophobia that killed Robbie. I've dedicated our effort in Scouting for All in the memory of Robin Reed a 15 year old student from the high school I go to, Petaluma High School and to all gay youth who have taken their lives because they felt like they didn't belong. Robin Reed was also a gay kid. He killed himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in 1995. Five years later my sister, a friend and I started Petaluma High School's first GSA Gay Straight Alliance. If Petaluma High School had a GSA in 1995 Robin Reed might be alive today, standing here in my place sharing with you how it is to grow up gay with the support of groups like Gay Straight Alliances. So the next time you hear someone making fun of someone else at your school. Think about Robin Reed and Robbie Kirkland. Think about how it hurts to be rejected and made fun of. And most important don't turn your back and walk the other way.

3. I am proud to be representing Scouting For All. Scouting for All is an organization my dad, Dave Rice and I founded in our stand against the discrimination of the Boy Scouts of America against gay youth and adults and atheists. When I found out the Boy Scouts of America discriminated against my gay friends I couldn't believe it. I became very ashamed of being a scout. I couldn't stay in scouting if I didn't try and do something to change the policy. The BSA was just teaching scouts to discriminate. They didn't practice their own scout oath and law when they discriminated against my gay friends. I had a Christian camp counselor named Robert Espindola, he taught morals and family values and about God. And you know something he is gay. I couldn't believe that my friend Robert would not be allowed to be in scouting simply because he was gay. I allowed myself to feel their pain and decided to do something. to change the policy. I wrote to government officials and then decided to write a letter to the editor about the scout law and how the Boy Scouts of America was not following their own scout law when they discriminated. I was afraid of how the kids at school would act towards me. Some made fun of me but eventually most of them thought what i was doing was ok. When some would call me fag or gay. I'd just say what's wrong with being gay? Being gay is normal. I got death threats but they just made me more determined to continue to try and change the policy because they just told me there are ignorant people out there that need to be educated about what being gay is and that being gay is normal. The support of my sister, mom, and dad and my friends have kept me going. And also knowing that gay kids were being hurt by the rejection of the BSA kept me going.

4. Now, I think its important to talk about all of us. How "you" as an individual and how "we" as a group can make a difference against the bigotry, discrimination, homophobia gay youth face every day of their lives.

But before we do that its important that we allow ourselves to feel the pain those that are discriminated against experience. Put yourselves in their shoes. Ask yourself how would it feel as a heterosexual to not have the same rights as are afforded to all other people in our society. How would it feel for example not to be able to be a member of the Boy Scouts of America or not be able to be legally married or be able to adopt children? Ask yourself how would that feel. If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and are experiencing those social injustices don't by into the homophobic messages presented to you every day.

I think as a people, we tend to believe something is "normal," "OK," or "healthy" if society accepts it. Some things we take for granted because institutions and laws may say it's ok. We may even believe in something that is discriminatory against us because we were taught it is ok.

Slavery at one time was accepted in this country as "normal," "OK," "healthy." Even some of the slaves accepted slavery as their purpose in life. Because that was what they were taught. Women not having the right to vote, African Americans not having civil rights until the 60s and being segregated, not being able to eat in the same restaurants or drink from the same drinking fountains as whites, and Native Americans weren't allowed to be citizens until 1928 and they were here first!

Even some of those who were discriminated against believed it was ok. It was "normal." Because our laws and institutions said, it was.

Things didn't change until individuals in our society found the courage too began to question these laws and institutions. Things didn't change until people began to come together to stand against these social injustices.

That is what we have to do.

Let us not buy into the messages today that we are no good if we are gay,

that we are no good if we are lesbian,

that we are no good if we are bisexual,

that we are no good if we are transgender.

Lets not buy into the message that if we love someone as a gay or lesbian that we don't have the right to marry,

or have the right to have employee benefits for our partners.

Or have the right to adopt

or have the rights that are given to all others in our society

Let's not buy into the message that you as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender youth don't exist, don't count.

We must stand together and speak out loud against these laws, against those institutions that discriminate against us, whether we are gay or not. We are all human beings and we should stand together to defend our rights as human beings. When the Boy Scouts of America discriminates against my gay friends, they discriminate against me. They discriminate against all of us as human beings. We must not turn our backs on any human being experiencing social injustice!

The message that I want to leave with all of you here today is that EVERY PERSON here is important, is of value, is special in this life!

As Martin Luther King said:

"We must not allow any force to make us feel like we don't count. Maintain a sense of dignity and respect!"

As young people we owe it to our future and the future of this earth that we stand together for human rights and that we embrace our diversity and cherish our differences.

Lets stand together!

Thank you very much.

Applause.... Standing ovation

If we have time for questions I'd be happy to take some.

Steven Cozza, Eagle Scout




Scouting For All is not an alternative scouting program.
We are an education and advocacy organization reaching out to gay and nontheist youth and adults in our effort to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its exlusionary policy.

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