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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 Interview With A Journalist May 29, 2005

Hi there

I am particularly interested in how Scouting for All was formed and started, especially in the startup steps. Who were the founding members?

It was Scott Cozza (my dad) Dave Rice and myself.

How did you come to a decision to speak out against the Boy Scouts of America?

I was in the BSA from when I started cub scouts and all along never new of there discriminating policy towards gays. It was not till I was 11 or 12 when I learned of it. All my life my parents had taken me to pride parades and just made me aware of diversity plus having a few gay friends and role models sparked a match in me when I found out they had this bigoted hurtful policy. They explained to me why gays were not excepted and none of the reason fit well with any of my gay friends. I could not just allow myself to stay in the BSA like there was nothing wrong so in order for me to be okay with myself staying in the group I decided I needed to take a stand.

What was it like in the first days?

The biggest difference in my life was in school. I was in Junior High at the time so you can just imagine how
that must have been. At first kids made fun of me a bit even some of my friends but after it was in the paper every week and I was on quite a bit of news stations kids started to learn and think it was cool. The started to become more aware and educated on the issue. Which was what scouting for all's goal is in the first place not only to change the discriminatory policy but to also educate along the way. The leading cause of death for gay youth is suicide. We hope that more groups like scouting for all pop up in support of atheist and gay youth. They are not alone and we are here to stand up for them. Whether your gay, straight or whatever it is important not to turn your back on someone who is experiencing hatred and discrimination. This was the same when whites took a stand with Africans Americans.

What sorts of events, publications, rallies, etc., did you have?

We held press conferences to kick off a petition drive I started. My goal was to raise a million signatures to help make the BSA better there organization by changing there policy. We held protest rallies and continue to do so along with marching in pride events all over the country. I spoke in front of crowds at parades and in colleges. The film scouts honor came out and we traveled to different states and college showing and speaking about it. It went to the Sun Dance film festival and won two awards as well. I started a Gay Straight alliance at my high school with my sister and a friend who helped. We were able to get our GSA and others in the area involved with scouting for all also.

What were your initial goals (as compared to the mission statement and material that you have on the web site now)? Where did you envision SFA going?

My goals have always been to end discrimination in the BSA and make it the best youth organization ever for all kids. I had wonderful memory's in the Scouts and wish that all people could. It is so sad to know that such a great organization such as the scouts ruins it for everyone by discriminating. They are not only hurting Gays but are also teaching youth to have hatred towards gays and continue to live with a closed mind. So I have always intended to change the policy but the education and the healing along the way is just as important.

Next, what, do you think, catapulted SFA onto the national scene?

I think having Tim Curran who was a Gay scout and kicked out after many years in the scouts along with James Dale who was in the same situations led to a more national exposure level for scouting for all. With me being only 12, 13, 14 very young and straight and in the scouts at the time as well as being an Eagle scout had a huge impact on getting us into the media. I was also capable of speaking to large crowds which believe was not easy at first. People wanted to listen and make the movement happen as it continues to this day. The organization become even more noticed after the Scouts Honor film came out on PBS.

Did you ever envision that it would be nationally and internationally recognized?

No, I never ever imagined it to turn into this. It just started off with me writing a letter to the local news paper telling them I didn't believe in saying the scout law at meetings if the BSA wasn't going to follow the scout law when they discriminated. As you can imagine this stirred up all kinds of stuff which was totally awesome.

What sort of techniques facilitated this growth?

Catching the media's attention was the trick. Once we started getting in interviews on news stations the word got out about our group and the support started flying in with phone calls just about every minute of the day both supportive and death threats.

How, do you think, has SFA been portrayed by the media or other organizations to the American public?

I think the media has done a good job in broadening our group. The good thing was we were always present
for live interviews sometimes having to travel to place early in the morning before school. The good thing about this was I was able to say it as I wanted to and it was all life the only problem was is that I would get sometimes bias interviewees who would ask pretty awful beat it around the bush kind of questions in which case I would just end up saying what I would want to say anyway.

Has the media been an important tool for this growth?

Yes, no doubt about it.

If so, what are some defining moments in the history of SFA?

The greatest interview ever was one of my first ones by Bay area news. Me and my dad were out fishing off a pier in the bay that day and they came out to the pier to shoot. It was hilarious not only because the wind was
blowing me over practically but because I was so inexperienced with speaking so it sounded really funny.

How has the internet affected the growth of SFA?

The Internet has been great for us both nationally and internationally. This is where people can come to sign my petition. Become members of scouting for all and keep updated on news and events. It is just great and our web master has done great work in helping my dad out with the site.

Have you been contacted by the BSA regarding your participation? If so, what was that like and what has been their opinion of your participation?

Well, when I first took a stand they didn't say much but than it started to grow. I was working very hard at the time to become an Eagle Scout. They tried so hard not to allow me to get that award for they said I didn't
deserve it and that I was not a good scout because I was standing up for gays. I told them I was just doing what a good scout should do and was just living by the scout oath and law. So it was a bit of a struggle and they ended up kicking out Dave Rice who had been in scouting for over 60 years along with my kicking out my dad simply for taking a stand.

If not, why do you think that others have been ousted from the organization, while you are permitted to remain an active Eagle Scout?

I am no longer in scouting. As soon as I earned my Eagle I left the organization because they no longer accepted me at the meetings. I no longer felt welcomed.

In Scout's Honor you are quoted at one point as saying that you could not have spoken out like you did without a firm base of friends and family; how did you decide to take a stance? What was the initial response of your
family and friends?

It definately was not easy to make the decision to write that first article to the local news paper which started everything. I had no clue how my peers at school would react and was a bit worried but I kept in the back of my mind through the whole thing that there were millions of kids being hurt by this policy everyday and that I would have no problem getting called a name here or there. Kids would say hey you gay kid and I would simply just say back what is wrong with being gay. You can think or say I am gay because there is nothing wrong with that and than they would just say. Oh. My family has always been behind me a hundred percent so that has been great to along with having great friends.

Has their support for you and SFA changed? Now that you are training in Europe, how has your involvement in SFA changed and how has the leadership and public relations of the organization changed?

Now that I am racing full time with the USA national team my involvement in scouting for all has changed quite a bit. Since I am not much home there is not much I can really do when I am over here in Europe. When I am home though and there is an opportunity for me to speak I jump on it every time. I really miss being more involved but since I am young and things are always changing for me it is hard to stay as involved especially with all the travel. I just about give all the credit to my Dad for keeping this organization alive along with all the great supporters. I started the fire he is keeping it stoked with logs and will continue to do so as long as we are alive.

What sort of activities are you involved in now, personally and professionally? How has being involved in Scouting for All affected your life? Any regrets? Any words of wisdom for future change-makers? Anything
else you want to add?

Right now I am currently working hard at my career of becoming a pro cyclist over here in Europe. It is very hard work both mentally and physically so it just about takes all of my energy. I have no regrets of Scouting for all. I have learned and matured so much since taking a stand. The people I have met and learned and the experiences I have had will never leave my mind. I think it is important as humans on this earth to always jump on any opportunity we might have to make change and to try make this world a better place.

The easiest and best way to take a stand is to make sure you can feel the pain of the person experiencing the injustice. This will give you the strength to stand tall and strong and make change.

Hope this helps.

Steven Cozza




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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