Bob Franken


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I am an Eagle Scout. I’m sure your first response is to thank me for sharing, unless you’re a Boy Scout official, who would prefer I don’t. But it’s true. Back in the dark ages of my youth, I compiled the required number of merit badges and completed the other assignments. So I got the Eagle. It was/is considered a badge of honor, and, as such, the framed certificate has long been displayed in my office. If nothing else, it causes anyone who sees it to wonder where I went wrong. However, as it became known that the Scouts’ traditional three-fingered salute was one-fingered when it came to gays, I turned the award upside down to express my aversion to such discrimination.
Well, now it’s on its side. Like the traditional half-empty or half-full debate, we can discuss whether it’s half-up or half-down, but the Boy Scouts of America have taken a step in the right direction. Finally, after all these years, they’ve decided to accept youngsters who openly acknowledge that they’re gay. While it’s a partial step away from bigotry — non-heterosexual adults are still barred from becoming leaders — it is enough to cause religiously intolerant and other purveyors of ignorance to have a hissy fit.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was prominent among those “greatly disappointed.” One of life’s important guiding principles is that if Rick Perry is against something, be for it, and vice versa. Of course, with most any credo, there are exceptions. Perry has expressed some thoughts about immigrants that fall short of the hatred we get from those in his usual posse. When it comes to gays, though, he’s right out in front of the backward movement.
Unfortunately, they’re still able to exert the power of their hatred on public policy. Even as we witness majority acceptance nationwide of alternative choices manifested in the military rejection of don’t ask, don’t tell and spreading legalization of same-sex marriage, we still are burdened with bigoted public policy. The halting steps toward humane treatment of immigrants would have been stopped dead in their tracks had legislation to bring some sanity to the issue included a common-sense provision that would extend permanent residency to same-gender partners just as it does for conventional man-woman couples. This is mainly a result of political necessity. Senate Republicans who signed on to the compromise largely because their party has been hammered by the Hispanic vote, nevertheless said extending the proposal to include gays would poison any chance of getting GOP support. So the Democrats swallowed their pride and their principles, allowing simple fairness to be kept out.

All this could well be affected by rulings that are due from the Supreme Court, particularly the one that will decide whether the Defense of Marriage Act should be upheld. DOMA blocks federal benefits from all but families made up of husbands and wives. If the Supremes overturn that, it ultimately could doom inequitable laws such as those pertaining to immigration. Of course, there are two huge “ifs” involved: as in, IF the proposal is passed in the House, which sits on the extreme right wing of the Capitol; and, of course, IF the justices overturn DOMA.
We’ve gotten a bit smug about how the attitudes have improved toward those who embrace nontraditional love. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of tolerance for intolerance, and even worse a virulent narrow-mindedness that has disproportionate influence on our laws. The uproar over the Boy Scouts reflects that. The fact that there was such agony over taking a half-step ahead demonstrates just how far we all have to go. By the way, Rick Perry is an Eagle Scout, like I am. It just goes to show that any shining honor can sometimes be tarnished.

© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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