I’m sure that by this point you all realize where I stand on homosexuality, gay marriage, and other conservative issues.
Anyway, I’m a writer for the UCR Highlander, the University newspaper, and as such I need to be non-biased.
Even though I am politically-opposed to the event/person I was covering, I tried my best to be impartial. This event, in particular, was a speech by John Dale, the Boy Scout who was expelled for being a homosexual.
I just wanted some feedback on both the writing style and the intended impartiality:
Published in the UCR Highlander – 11/14/05
BYLINE: Ryan Clark Holiday – Staff Writer
Gay-rights activist and famous former Boy Scout John Dale took the center podium in the University Lecture Hall at UCR, much like he did five years ago in front of the United States Supreme Court.
He spoke of tolerance and equality – two ideas that he felt were not reciprocated to him by the Boy Scouts of America – to a relatively small crowd last Thursday. His message holds an implied and inspiring credibility after a nearly decade-long fight in various courts across the nation.
“In 1978, I joined the Boy Scouts. In 1990 I was expelled, and in 2000 it went all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Dale.
The no-frills summary with which he began his speech did little justice to the complexities and evolving viewpoints of the parties involved.
Joining the Scouts as an 8 year-old, Dale traveled up the program’s ranks to the status of Eagle Scout, leaving behind a trail of merit badges, honors, and awards. Like other boys, he relished in the organization’s communal structure.
“I didn’t know I was gay, but I knew I wanted to fit in,” Dale said.
Unlike some modern day Dred Scott, his experiences in the Scouts were, in fact, genuine. He claims not to have joined as a part of a social experiment, or with the intent of radically shaping the institution from the inside.
“I didn’t set out to do anything,” Dale said. “I didn’t think the rest of my life would be defined by the experience I had in the Scouts.”
He continued to remain involved in the organization significantly longer than most, finding a position as a leader after obtaining the highest rank. Even as the uniform lost its “coolness,” he stuck with it while in college.
It was in this transitional period that he admitted to himself that he was a homosexual. Fortunately, though, he came from loving family who accepted, at least to a certain extent, this change.
“They didn’t disown me or kick me out of the house but they had to work with it,” he said.
This reaction, however, stands in stark contrast with the reception received from the Boy Scouts. Upon learning of his involvement with homosexual organizations at his college campus and self-declared affiliation as one himself, they penned a letter expelling him, without explanation, from the organization.
A subsequent letter addressed the issue in blunt and certain terms, announcing that “known homosexuals are not allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts of America.” The organization, which had, as of 1990, been relatively quiet on the issue, cited several factors.
The Scout’s code recited by all members preaches the virtues of morality and cleanliness, terms that leaders feel clearly contradict those of homosexuals. In fact, the wording of the motto literally contains the phrase keeping oneself “morally straight.”
Dale, on the other hand, disagrees.
“To me, that does not say you cannot be gay,” Dale said.
Instead, he argues, that the startlingly more controversial position of open gayness in the late 80′s had more to do with it.
“In 1990, gays were a lot less visible. There was no ‘Ellen’ or ‘Will and Grace,’ it was hidden,” Dale said. “Back then, people thought gay meant AIDS.”
It was in this that Dale felt he could make a difference. With homosexuality as a taboo topic, it took a frontal assault on political correctness to finally push the issue into the public discourse.
“It forced people to deal with the issue of gay discrimination. People have to now think about things they didn’t want to think about,” Dale said.
Students agreed with this approach, and appreciated his sacrifice for such a socially-important cause.
“As a gay-rights activist myself, I found it inspiring to see someone struggle and then to triumph,” first-year political science and languages Samantha Wilson said.
Triumph, however, in its literal sense, was actually awarded to the Boy Scouts of America. Dale lost his suit against the organization in a 5-4 vote by the United States Supreme Court.
“The Boy Scouts has a First Amendment right to choose to send one message but not the other. The fact that the organization does not trumpet its views from the housetops, or that it tolerates dissent within its ranks, does not mean that its views receive no First Amendment protection,” wrote the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist in his majority opinion.
Nevertheless, Dale urged students to continue to fight either for his cause or another, so long as they spoke “from the heart.” In his final words, he proposed that society can be changed.
“You don’t realize the power you have. I encourage you to stand up and speak out. Now is the time for full equality.”
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