SALT LAKE CITY -- The LDS church, the Great Salt Lake Area Council BSA president and a former local troop volunteer pushing for inclusiveness are weighing-in on Monday's announcement by the Boy Scouts of America that it will allow transgender scouts who identify as boys.
The announcement came a few months after an 8-year-old boy in New Jersey accused the BSA of expelling him because he is transgender. While the BSA did not cite that case, it did acknowledge a complex gender identity issue.
For the last four years, Peter Brownstein has advocated for scouting to accept all children. He used to be a volunteer troop leader, sponsored by the United Jewish Federation. In 2013 he was kicked out of the BSA after he marched in a Gay Pride Parade with his son’s troop.
“That was the beginning of a poor relationship between myself and them,” said Brownstein, now an advocate for scouting. “I was accused of promoting a gay agenda, at the time of the march.”
Brownstein said he still loves the program and believes every child who wants to be a part of BSA should be allowed in. With the recent transgender announcement, he said he sees progress.
He expects the Great Salt Lake Chapter will be more of the “same.”
“They will say, ‘ok we will accept or we will tolerate’ but the question is, when will they allow open inclusive diverse troops to be created within the program possibly outside the leadership of a specific religious organization,” Brownstein said.
President of the Great Salt Lake Area chapter, Bruce R. Hough, said the organization is already inclusive of everyone.
“What a lot of people don't realize about the Great Salt Lake Council, for example, is that over half the youth in this geographic area are not members of the LDS church or dominant faith in this community, and we reach out to all those youth,” said President Hough. “So we are very inclusive.”
He said the transgender acceptance announcement is not a policy change, it’s a clarification.
“We've always pretty much accepted up until last year that whatever a parent puts down as the gender of their child on their application is the gender of their child. Last year when the courts were looking at this, we looked at the birth certificate, but even that isn't a reliable source anymore because there are many states that are changing the rules on birth certificates and the like. The really simple answer was we just go back to the way we've been doing it for a hundred years, which is the parent fills out an application and puts down the gender of their child that's what we will accept.”
“What about when a child born a female, who later identifies as a boy wants to become a BSA member, how will you accept him?” asked Fox13 News to President Hough.
“We are going to have a discussion with the parents if we even know,” replied President Hough. “We may not ever know. But if we know and they want to have that discussion, then we will sit down with the parents and make sure we understand the best program for their child to participate in.”
Hough said there are multiple co-ed programs, that offer inclusiveness, plus a STEM program, after school programs, and several new refugee troops.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the nation’s largest sponsor of the Boy Scouts, in response to the transgender announcement, it said:
"The Church is studying the announcement made yesterday by Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts has assured its religious chartering organizations that, as in the past, they will be able to organize their troops in a way fully consistent with their religious beliefs. In recent years the Church has made several changes to its programs for youth, and continues to look for ways to better serve its families and young people worldwide."
In 2015, the LDS church decided it would continue its affiliation with the BSA despite its decision to allow gay troop leaders.