CHICAGO — A suburban Chicago man is among the Eagle Scouts returning his medal to the Boy Scouts of America in protest of the organization’s recent decision to continue its ban of homosexual scouts and leaders.
Rob Breymaier, executive director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, said he has long opposed the anti-gay policy, but he wanted to send back the medal because he has lost hope that the 102-year-old organization would “do the right thing.”
“I could always explain away that it was an old policy and that sooner or later, we’ll be able to force a vote on the issue,” Breymaier said. “But when this vote happened and they reaffirmed the policy, it was just too much. It was infuriating, embarrassing and upsetting.”
Eagle Scout is the highest Boy Scout rank. Among the stringent requirements, a Scout must earn 21 merit badges, serve six months in a leadership position and successfully complete a board of review, according to the Boy Scouts website.
Boy Scouts of America officials announced their decision to reaffirm the ban on gays July 17 after a two-year evaluation in response to intensified scrutiny.
For Martin Cizmar of Akron, Ohio, becoming an Eagle Scout meant more than graduating from high school.
He had joined the Boy Scouts at age 11 and received scouting’s highest rank shortly after he turned 18.
“It was really the defining thing of my childhood,” said Cizmar, now the arts and culture editor at Willamette Week in Portland, Ore. “I’ve taken it with me everywhere that I’ve lived and everywhere I’ve been. It was something that I cherished a lot.”
But last week, after the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its exclusion of gays from participating as Scouts or adult leaders, Cizmar returned his medal in protest.
Cizmar explained in his letter, dated July 19, that he is not gay, but he cannot support an organization that excludes gays.
“I can only hope that someone inside the BSA has the courage to fix this policy before the organization withers into irrelevance,” Cizmar wrote. “I don’t want to be an Eagle Scout if a young man who is gay can’t be one, too. Gentlemen, please do the right thing.”
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the private organization’s exclusion policy in 2000.
The BSA reaffirmed its stance last week after a two-year, confidential review by a committee of professional Scout executives and adult volunteers unanimously endorsed the exclusion policy.
The BSA so far has received “around five” returned medals, according to BSA spokesman Deron Smith, who responded to emailed questions.
“Each year more than 50,000 men earn the rank of Eagle Scout,” he said.
The organization is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Eagle Scout Award this year.
“While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society,” Smith said. “Although we are disappointed to learn of anyone who feels compelled to return his Eagle rank, we fully understand and appreciate that not everyone will agree with any one position or policy.”