National Geographic stands with Boy Scouts despite anti-gay policy

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GLAAD, an LGBT anti-defamation organization, and Scouts for Equality are urging the National Geographic Channel to denounce the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.

The channel is set to debut a new series, “Are You Tougher than a Boy Scout,” this spring. National Geographic Channel recently released a statement that it stands by its partnership with the BSA, despite public opposition to the nonprofit’s ban against openly gay scouts and troop leaders.

Last week, Eagle Scout Will Oliver of Chicago launched a petition encouraging National Geographic Channel to speak out against the BSA ban and to air a disclaimer before each episode.

In response to the petition campaign, National Geographic stated, “National Geographic Channel is an international media company that is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate in any capacity. As it relates to our upcoming show with the Boy Scouts, we certainly appreciate all points of view on the topic, but when people see our show they will realize it has nothing to do with this debate, and is in fact a competition series between individual scouts and civilians.”

GLAAD president Herndon Graddick said, “That National Geographic would brush aside countless gay teens suffering at the hands of the BSA, shrugging off injustice as just another ‘point of view,’ is irresponsible. By airing this program, National Geographic is providing support and publicity to an organization that harms young people simply because of who they are. If the network is truly committed to standing by its non-discrimination practices, it should have no problem airing a disclaimer to that effect.”

The BSA partnership with the channel is part of the organization’s campaign – detailed in a strategic plan for 2011-15 – to make scouting cool. The plan said the BSA would work with National Geographic on “leveraging the show with Scouting audiences and audiences outside of scouting.”

Graddick, in a news release, said, “It’s all too clear that this show is just a marketing ploy, crafted by the BSA to boost dwindling membership and distract Americans from the Scouts’ long history of discrimination. National Geographic Channel is the means to that end and must therefore make it clear where the network stands.”

Oliver stated, "By refusing to denounce the Boy Scouts' explicitly anti-gay policy, National Geographic Channel is condoning discrimination. As a gay Eagle Scout and a member of the National Geographic Society, I expect more from this pioneering media company.”