Scouting and Paranoia

The Boy Scouts’ recent decision to maintain their exclusion of gay scouts and leaders was disappointing. Alas, it was not surprising. After a two year review, the organization decided to maintain its anti-gay policy. I know that this was particularly painful for the many Unitarian Universalists who have worked so hard to change this policy.

The paranoia (and I use the word with care–denoting fears that are delusional and without foundation) has puzzled me for many years. Before I was a UU (much less a UU minister), I was a newspaper publisher in Oregon. In the early 1990’s Oregon was torn apart by anti-gay referendums. The small city in which I worked was one of the battle grounds for local anti-gay laws.

I remember how bitter the feelings were. I particularly remember how the anti-gay forces, backed by the religious right, painted a picture of the destruction of civilization if their initiative did not pass. Their campaign slogan was that gays and lesbians should have “no special rights.”

I remember writing one particular editorial that poked fun (actually, “poked fun” is understatement) at the campaign. The city in which I lived, Cottage Grove, had less than 10,000 people. The city had a library, a fire department, a police department, parks and the usual public works. What “special rights,” I asked, could the city conceivably bestow on gays even if it wished to?

Would the fire department respond more quickly to a fire in a gay home? Would gays get their library fines waived? Even if the city wanted to give special treatment, it would have to know who was gay and who was not. It was both silly and sad at the same time.

One of the great truths that has emerged in the last decade, a truth that gets very little media attention, is that granting rights like marriage equality to gays does not bring the end of civilization. In fact, the effects are almost zero. Divorce rates do not change. The traditional family continues to exist. The sky does not fall.

None of the effects the religious right predicted—NONE—have come to pass. The ironic truth is that once rights like marriage equality are in place nothing much changes. Life goes on.

The recent decision of the Boy Scouts is a victory for paranoia. That is sad. What is a cause for joy is that this kind of paranoia is in retreat.

Permanent link to this article: