Metro Weekly

Scott Walker backtracks on comments about gay Scouts ban

Presidential candidate seeks to clarify remark that ban "protected children"

Photo: Scott Walker. Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr.

Photo: Scott Walker. Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr.

Presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) is walking back comments he made in response to news that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is moving towards eliminating the organization’s current ban on openly gay adult leaders and volunteers.

Walker, who frequently touts his status as a former Eagle Scout — Scouting’s highest rank — on the campaign trail, said on Tuesday that he thought BSA’s existing prohibition on openly gay adult leaders should stay in place, saying that the policy “protected children and advanced Scout values.” Walker’s comments were reported by The Independent Journal Review, a popular news website for young conservatives.

The issue was raised along the campaign trail after BSA’s executive committee voted unanimously on Friday to approve a resolution to allow openly gay Scout leaders and parent volunteers to be involved with their local troops. But the resolution would also allow troops that are chartered to religious or religiously-affiliated organizations to continue to ban gay leaders if their religious beliefs oppose homosexuality, same-sex parenting or same-sex marriage. BSA’s National Executive Board must ratify the resolution in a vote scheduled for July 27 before the new policy can go into effect.

After Walker made his initial comments, his campaign then attempted to retract them back in the wake of a backlash from national LGBT groups and advocates. Many saw the comments as relying heavily on outdated stereotypes or unfavorable media portrayals from decades past of homosexuals as pedophiles or as lecherous people seeking to ‘convert’ children to homosexuality.

“Scott Walker’s suggestion that the Boy Scouts of America’s current discriminatory policy somehow ‘protects’ children from gay adults is offensive, outrageous, and absolutely unacceptable,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). “His comments imply that we represent a threat to the safety and well-being of young people. For a sitting governor and presidential candidate to make such a disgraceful claim is unconscionable. If Scott Walker is trying to get his merit badge in being shamefully irresponsible, he just earned it with flying colors.”

HRC also called upon Walker to renounce his statement and apologize, and urged other presidential candidates to renounce Walker’s comments.

Later, Walker’s campaign clarified that he did not mean that children needed “physical protection” from gay adult leaders, but rather needed to be shielded from any debate over homosexuality.

According to The New York Times, Walker told the media that he meant that the old policy was helpful in “protecting [Scouts] from being involved in the very thing you’re talking about right now, the political and media discussion about it, instead of focusing on what Scouts is about, which is about camping and citizenship and things of that nature.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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