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Media Coverage Articles

Tom Melsheimer and Craig Smith: Scouts’ tentative decision fails leadership challenge

April 25, 2013

Media Coverage Articles

Tom Melsheimer and Craig Smith: Scouts’ tentative decision fails leadership challenge

April 25, 2013

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It’s decision time for the Boy Scouts, again. Despite its rich history of developing young leaders, the Scouts’ drawn-out controversy over its legacy of excluding gay Scouts and adult leaders offers a valuable leadership lesson. Lesson No. 1: Leadership is not easy and requires difficult decisions. Less than a year after reiterating its policy excluding gays, it’s telling that the organization quickly caved and pledged to revisit the policy, then promptly postponed a decision. Scout leadership’s latest trial balloon seeks elusive middle ground, recommending the group’s national council adopt a policy at its May meeting in Irving allowing gay Scouts but maintaining the ban on gay Scout leaders. This compromise solution is based on a tally of more than 1 million Scouting volunteers. Yet a survey is not leadership.

The crisis facing the Scouts is a reflection of changing attitudes and support for fairness for gay families, something that corporate America, our military and many other institutions have tackled. As a sitting judge and the leader of a national law firm’s North Texas offices, we have experience in organizations that not only value but benefit from inclusion policies.

No governmental entity can force the Scouts to change. Our highest court ruled a decade ago that the Boy Scouts of America has a fundamental freedom of association right. But larger forces are at play, and the BSA risks losing the hearts and minds of its supporters, the public and mainstream corporate America. Proudly celebrating its 103rd birthday, the organization is in danger of becoming marginalized and known for exclusion rather than the Scout oath’s timeless values.

With membership down more than 20 percent since 2000, it’s clear that the BSA has worn blinders as the world has changed. Assorted polls show a long-term, steady increase in support for gay rights, reflecting generational turnover — younger Americans are more likely to support gay rights — but also changing opinions among older Americans.

For the rest of the story, read Fish attorney Tom Melsheimer’s and the Honorable Craig Smith’s Dallas Morning News guest column, “Scouts’ tentative decision fails leadership challenge.”

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