(Updated) Top state Democrats are helping the Boy Scouts of America raise money at an upcoming gala—to the consternation of at least two prominent party leaders critical of the organization’s exclusion of gays.
Nancy DiNardo (pictured), chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, is being honored at the Greater Bridgeport Good Scouts Award Breakfast on June 14. The event is a fundraiser for the “leadership development and values-based programs of the Boy Scouts of America, Connecticut Yankee Council.”
As the state party promotes the fundraiser, a party-endorsed statewide candidate called on DiNardo to change her mind, and New Haven’s party chairwoman said she’s skipping the event.
Allison Dodge, the Democratic State Central Committee’s executive director, sent an email to fellow Democrats Tuesday announcing that DiNardo would be honored as a “Good Scout” at the event. Dodge encouraged Democrats to buy a $100 ticket to the fundraiser, or to make a $50 donation. The donation would go towards an ad that the state central party will be placing in the program booklet for the event, Dodge wrote.
The email push came on the heels of a story the New Haven Registerfeaturing a former scout leader from Guilford who was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for being openly gay. He was invited to a different Connecticut Boy Scouts event, then uninvited because of his sexuality.
The Boy Scouts of America “does not accept the membership of those that are openly or avowed homosexual,” according to national spokesman Deron Smith. (Click here for a column by New Haven’s Henry Fernandez on the topic.)
New Haven Democratic Town Committee Chair Susie Voigt (at right in photo) said she’s boycotting the fundraiser for that reason.
“As much as I like and respect Nancy DiNardo, I’m going to decline going to a Boy Scouts of America event,” she said.
“That’s not really an organization that I’m fully supportive of,” because of their anti-gay stance, she said. “They still apparently have the view that it’s not morally right to have anything other than a heterosexual gender preference.”
“I can’t make Nancy DiNardo’s choices for her,” Voigt said, “but I would have declined the invitation.”
“I wouldn’t go to a club that discriminated against a group of people,” she added.
Kevin Lembo (at left in photo, with his partner and one of their adopted sons), the state health care advocate and the Democratic party nominee for comptroller, agreed. He called DiNardo Wednesday when he heard that she would be participating in the fundraiser and voiced his disapproval. Lembo is openly gay; he and his partner have three adopted sons. He noted that the Boy Scouts discriminate against not only gays but also atheists.
“I prefer, obviously, that she not participate in the event, but that’s not my event,” Lembo said.
Reached Wednesday, DiNardo defended her role.
“I understand [Lembo’s] position,” DiNardo said Wednesday. “I have supported gay rights and I still do. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to help Bridgeport. I’m a former educator in Bridgeport. I know how important it is that children have structured activities to attend.”
“Do I support all of the positions of the Boy Scouts? Absolutely not,” DiNardo said. “But this is money that’s going directly to Bridgeport children.”
DiNardo said she does not support excluding openly gay people from participating in the Boy Scouts. Openly gay politicians agreed that she has been supportive of gay rights.
DiNardo found support among two openly gay state legislators.
Bethel State Rep. Jason Bartlett (pictured), the first openly gay black state legislator in the nation, said he found it “a little odd” that DiNardo would raise money for the Boy Scouts. He said he’s not against DiNardo accepting the award, because “overall, they do good work.”
He said the Boy Scouts does need to change: “I think that we need to continue to fight the battle with them, in terms of trying to open up their anti-gay policy.”
“I probably would caution her to think about that as she goes forward,” he said.
State Rep. Mike Lawlor of East Haven, who’s also openly gay, said he has no problem with DiNardo’s role in the event. Lawlor and Bartlett both said they have participated in ceremonies for local troops.
Lawlor said she is being put in an awkward position because of the Boy Scouts’ anachronistic national policy.
He said there’s no question Connecticut is a tolerant place for gays.
“You can’t find a single politician [in Connecticut] who would defend a policy like this. Everybody thinks it’s ridiculous. People are so over this discussion,” he said. However, local troops can’t change the Boy Scouts’ national policy of rejecting gays, he said.
That contradiction “will continue to put people in a uncomfortable position,” he said. “Nancy’s in that position right now.”
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Republican State Party Chairman Chris Healy defended DiNardo.
“Democrat Chairman Nancy DiNardo should be commended for supporting the Greater Bridgeport Boy Scouts of America and should not let criticism stop her efforts to promote the organization for its fine work,” he said.
“But the Boy Scouts’ policy of excluding gays, atheists, and agnostics clashes with the city’s non-discrimination policies, and the Police Commission has determined that the LAPD will no longer associate with Learning for Life. The new program will commence on Jan. 1, 2010, and will rely in part on donations. “
I always figured that the Boy Scouts were like the Catholic Church or the US Army - you know, so old and powerful and connected that they get to play by their OWN set of (immoral) rules. LIke, when it comes to women and gays and that kind of stuff…. So this idea that they can be held to the SAME standards as the rest of the 21st-century world…. it feels…. so… heretical.
I don’t advertise, nor do I accept remuneration for a Civil Union or Wedding.
I do however request a donation be made to some group of my own choice, frequently The Salvation Army mostly due my own strong opinion as to that group’s banishment from some malls (Brass City in Waterbury) or entire chains such as Target.
I’ve done several Gay Weddings too as it seems some JP’s are suddenly “all tied up” (sometimes maybe they are) when they learn it’s a Gay couple.
I figure if the father of modern Conservatism, the late Barry Goldwater didn’t care, why should I? (I’m not an ordained guy, so I don’t do a religious ceremony; should someone want that they’ll have to find someone else as all I can do as a JP *is* a civil ceremony.)
The above withstanding - what is wrong with some of you people?
If I don’t get my knickers in a knot over performing Gay weddings, why can’t the rest of you control yourselves regarding a youth group?
It’s the Boy Scouts for crying out loud; would you people get a grip on yourselves?
It’s not always all about you; get over yourselves.
A little tolerance once in a while might do some of you a little good.
posted by: Tessa Marquis on June 2, 2010 6:42pm
I thought I was “a member in good standing” of the Connecticut Democratic Party and, as a member of the Milford Democratic Town Committee, should have received this email from State Central. But I didn’t.
...They must be able to predict my reaction to this sort of thing by now.
posted by: jcp on June 2, 2010 8:20pm
I don’t understand why an organization cannot make rules for itself. We may not agree with their stance but that doesn’t mean it should be changed. Sometimes permanence is of more value than change.
posted by: kamb on June 2, 2010 8:46pm
I’m really getting sick of these dirty politicians pushing their own agendas. The Boy Scouts is a great group that does a lot for kids and especialy inner-city kids.
SHAME on you Susie Voigt for boycotting them because they don’t support everything you blieve in!
THESE POLITICIANS need to all be FIRED by us the voters!
I bet they wouldnt mind raising money for a group they disagree with if the group contributed to their party though.
posted by: Concerned Citizen on June 2, 2010 10:25pm
Mrs. DiNardo, you might be in an awkward position, but please - take a stand against injustice. Tell the Boy Scouts of Bpt. that you cannot support discriminatory and oppressive practices.
All it takes for evil to continue to flourish is for good people to do nothing about it. In many ways the Boy Scouts of America have been like the Catholic Church. They detest and even persecute people who are openly gay; yet, they cuddle and condone those who are closeted predators, and as such have allowed the predatory behaviors to continue. Young boys were never allowed to talk about what was happening to them, because the Boy Scouts did not allow such conversations. By keeping it quiet they condone it and allowed it to happen.
There are many other very productive ways for the Democratic leadership to help children in Bpt. The Boy Scouts in CT are not known for reaching deep into the inner-cities to those boys who need it most and to help them to find direction and purpose. In fact, if we look at the Scout Troops in CT you will find that it is peopled mostly by a rather selective bunch of youngsters. As we all know—those who are selected to be honored are also those who are most likely to bring in BIG BUCKS to the organization doing the honors.
Nancy DiNardo would be doing young boys and men accross America a great service by saying “no thanks” to the Bpt Troup based on the principle of fairness and rejecting the hypocritical practices of the Boy Scouts of America. There are principles that are bigger than any one person; justice, fairness and protecting the oppressed are among such principles. Below are four immediate Scout-related cases of alleged molestation and abuse by scout masters/troup leaders. Maybe if the Boy Scouts had a policy where these men could openly live their lives as gays they would not have been able to take these children as victims; maybe they would not seek to hide among the Scouts; the policy gave them refuge.
If my kids were young enough to be in the Scouts, I would not not want them to have a homosexual leader.
The Supreme Court has said the Scouts prohibition of homosexuals as leaders or members is legal.
Knapp, as a former Scout leader certainly knew he was not in favor, as he had previously been tossed out, and should have realized the invitation was in error,
He’s just trying to foment a hassle, and vent his anger or frustration.
Forget about the Scouts,Knapp. and continue to do as you wish.
We should all be courteous to you but make our legitimate decisions as to whether or not we welcome you in our associations.
You have the right to do the same.
posted by: Atwater st on June 3, 2010 6:09am
The Boy Scouts of America are a religious affiliated organization and as such, have every right to, just like any other group does, to have a membership based on certain criteria and to have leadership based on certain criteria.
I’m sorry, but just as you think that their criteria are immoral, your perspectives on what is moral and what is not are not universally held. They are just that… Cultural perspectives. What is culturally acceptable is NOT synonymous with moral authority or correctness.
I say good for them for standing up for what they believe in and for holding their own, courageously I might add, in this present climate of the fast flying bigot label and little if any true dialogue with those we don’t agree with. (Look at the current political situation… Who’s really talking and listening there?)
I think DiNardo’s position when she says, “Do I support all of the positions of the Boy Scouts? Absolutely not,” DiNardo said. “But this is money that’s going directly to Bridgeport children”, is one that we should all keep in mind. This is the real world and we are going to disagree all the time with people of all different backgrounds and beliefs. That does not mean that they are not good and helpful people and that their work is not without real merit.
I think it’s small minded to just dismiss the Boy Scouts out of hand because of this issue, when we know that they are a religious group and that they have been doing very real good in this world with our children for longer than any of us have walked the earth.
Cultural norms come and go. Let’s not be so close-minded that we think that the latest iterations of morality are anything more than that. the Church’s teaching on sexuality have been around for a bit longer I think. I think that they will last long after any of us are gone, and who knows, perhaps they are actually right.
Let’s leave the Scouts alone shall we?
posted by: Townie on June 3, 2010 7:51am
Isn’t hypocritical to claim the BSA’s position on homosexuality is immoral or wrong? Who is to judge what is right an wrong? It’s all just opinion, all morality is subjective. Let the BSA exist as they want to exist, as long as they don’t promote violence against homosexuals, which they do not do. Some people do believe that homosexuality is immoral and incorrect, they are allowed to hold this opinion and it does not indicate ignorance or bigotry, it only represents a different world view and, perhaps, cultural ethos.
posted by: Kirk on June 3, 2010 7:55am
The guy from Guilford wasn’t kicked out of the Scouts because he was gay. He was kicked out because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut and felt his sexuality was more important than duty. In not so many words, other Scout leaders advised him that if he just kept quiet he could remain an active participant. He chose to ignore their advise.
I know somebody within the local Boy Scout council.
posted by: Luther on June 3, 2010 9:11am
Re the following and similar comments:
“I don’t understand why an organization cannot make rules for itself. We may not agree with their stance but that doesn’t mean it should be changed. Sometimes permanence is of more value than change.”
I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the Boy Scouts can’t make its own rules.
Just like a Church, the Knights of Columbus, the KKK, and the American Nazi Party, the Scouts can take any position they like, should follow applicable laws, and suffer the consequences and applause for what they stand for.
On the other hand we are saying that the Democratic Party has its own standards. They should include tolerance of all religious views, the absence of religious views, and the tolerance of all sexual orientations. Also being suggested is that the leader of the state party should consider how her actions reflect on the party and herself with regard to tolerance.
posted by: William Kurtz on June 3, 2010 9:36am
No progressive thinker should associate with, or accept an honor from the BSA, given their exclusionary positions but having said that, the organization is as entitled to its beliefs and practices as any other.
The alternative to breaking down their door to gain entry is just to let them continue their slide into irrelevance. Like any other organism or organization, they will evolve or perish.
But to Kirk and anyone else who insists that the BSA is against “behavior” and that if Mr. Knapp was only kicked out of his Boy Scouts role because he “couldn’t keep his mouth shut” and he brought his sexuality into it, does the same standard apply to heterosexual scout leaders? In other words, are they allowed to acknowledge their wives or any other aspects of their home lives that would be tantamount to admitting their heterosexuality?
posted by: Atwater st on June 3, 2010 9:43am
“Just like a Church, the Knights of Columbus, the KKK, and the American Nazi Party, the Scouts can take any position they like…”
It’s just this sort of juxtapositions that are the most unhelpful and exhibit the least amount of respect for those with opposing views. Statements like that one are nothing short of ridiculous. This is exactly why we need more dialogue and less of these guys with punchy one liners who distract from real conversation.
The deal is that real religious tolerance needs to include an understanding that different religions, etc, have very definitive moral understandings and traditions rooted in very real theologies and philosophies. We have the Church to thank for much of what we treasure in modern culture, lest we forget. If people of different backgrounds are to understand each other, we need to throw away this idea that we can just dismiss each others philosophies out of hand and bull doze our way through to a shiny new society.
I think that we all need to entertain the idea that each of us could be wrong, that those with other ideas are real, caring, thinking people, and that we would all do better in trying to listen and understand each other, rather than dehumanizing and debasing one another.
In regards to the standards of the Democratic party, again, real tolerance should be reflected in an understanding and respect for the teachings of the religions being tolerated. Else that tolerance easily turns to intolerance doesn’t it. Even lefties don’t like that word, though those in the extremes often don’t understand what it means.
posted by: mikepc45 on June 3, 2010 10:41am
Typical liberal thinking, punish the children for the perceived sins of the father. Remember you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
posted by: jschmidt on June 3, 2010 1:59pm
Get over it. The Boy Scouts are a great organization that teaches leadership skills. The boys never get caught up in the gay issue. Only the leadership. There are few organizations like this that teaches boys to take responsibility and to be a leader.
posted by: jcp on June 3, 2010 5:37pm
I find it dismaying when any organization is demonized for its beliefs. The comparison to the KKK and Nazi party is particularly odious. Earlier in my life I was a boy scout and a Catholic and only had good experiences with each group (I am neither now). I am sorry that these institutions have hurt many but they have helped far more than hurt.
Many speak of tolerance when discussing the BSA’s positions—why cannot we be tolerant of their views? Isn’t it a two way street?
Also, linking to salacious stories of pedophiles is fallacious. Many organizations can be made to look bad by the actions of some of their members.
As a progressive liberal, I find it more important that the greater good progresses without getting sidelined by cultural wars.
The Catholic Church has fed countless hungry people in this state and continues its mission to support people that others have forgotten. I can only commend them for this.
posted by: Mr Perfect on June 4, 2010 7:54am
Well, I’m an Eagle Scout and I support the Boy Scouts of America.
Only 1% of Boy Scouts make it to Eagle Scout. My voice is worth a little bit more than others here.
posted by: Freak on June 4, 2010 8:20am
The Boy Scouts can take the position that they are a private organization, with the same rights to set their rules for membership as any other private organization, and they can be treated just like every other private organization.
For example, if they want to rent Balboa park or Fort A. P. Hill, they can do so under the same terms as any other group.
Fortunately, Ned, Craig and Haggard are part of your group, not mine, I gather from your slur, although I must confess I’m not sure who Haggard is.
posted by: abg on June 8, 2010 12:06pm
In this type of situation, where you support an organization’s overall goals but disagree strongly with a particular policy, it seems to me the appropriate course of action is to attend the event AND voice strong criticism of the offensive policy. DiNardo should make clear in her acceptance speech that she thinks “values-based programs” are a misnomer if they are based on exclusion. Tough love is the best medicine.
Here’s hoping that Enfield High School does not try to hold their next graduation at a Boy Scouts camp.