Salazar on Boy Scouts accepting girls: ‘Times are changing’

Author: Joey Bunch - October 11, 2017 - Updated: October 12, 2017

Boy ScoutsEli Whalen, 10, center, purses his lip as he salutes the lives of fallen soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice dying for their country in battle while paying his respects alongside fellow Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts alike on Memorial Day amidst hundreds of families attending a ceremony on Monday, May 29, 2017 at Fairview Cemetery in Linden, Mich. (Jake May /The Flint via AP)

Call it a quiet riot, but Colorado organizations were slow to react to news Wednesday that the Boy Scouts will now accept girls in the Cub Scouts. But not Joe Salazar.

The state representative from Thornton is highly attuned to issues of civil rights and equality more closely than perhaps anyone in Colorado, however, and he was predictably the first top-tier state politico to react to the historic news.

“Times are changing rapidly, and the Boy Scouts of America are demonstrating they are not immune to change,” Salazar told Colorado Politics. “I’m happy to see that a unanimous board is willing to move the Boy Scouts into the 21st century.”

Salazar is running in the Democratic primary for attorney general next year.

In the state Capitol, he has fought for legislation on offensive American Indian mascots, a homeless person bill of rights, gender equality and more accurate reporting on hate crime initiatives, as well as working with groups to ensure peaceful protests.

The Boy Scouts national board is opening up its Cub Scouts program to girls for the first time, citing, among other reasons, busy families that could consolidate membership in the organization the teaches responsibility, loyalty and self-reliance.

“The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls,” Boy Scouts of America said in a statement. “… The organization evaluated the results of numerous research efforts, gaining input from current members and leaders, as well as parents and girls who’ve never been involved in Scouting — to understand how to offer families an important additional choice in meeting the character development needs of all their children.”

Cub Scouts is for children from 7 to 10 years old. Founded in 1910, Boy Scouts of America has about 2.3 million youth members from 7 to 21 years old who are supported by about 960,000 volunteer adults. It’s membership, however, has slipped by about one-third since 2000.

Former state Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton, now an Adams County commissioner, told Colorado Politics that girls should be allowed to join if they want to, but she still favors the Girl Scouts to train young woman.

“I can’t think of a reason why a young girl would want to join the Boy Scouts, when they have a perfectly good organization of their own in the Girls Scouts,” Hodge said.

State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, like Salazar, also congratulated the Boy Scouts for its forward-thinking.

“This inclusive move of the Boy Scouts supports a girl’s freedom to join a club that best suits her.” Herod said. “Bravo!”

House Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, said the scouting programs for boys and girls separately have distinct benefits, but she’s glad girls interested in Boy Scouts programs can take advantage of programs they prefer now.

“If boys want to have access to Girl Scouts programs, they should, as well, but still respecting whether local packs want to have co-ed programs, or not,” Becker said. “It should be a local decision.”

She said there is value in gender-specific programs, as well.

“I think there are ways to accommodate girls who want to take part in Boy Scouts programs and boys that want to do Girl Scouts programs, without fundamentally changing what these cherished organizations have become and the programs they’ve traditionally offered.”

Colorado Politics reached out to several Republican politicians, as well, who either didn’t immediately call back or text with a comment or said they didn’t have an opinion they cared to express.

The Boy Scouts has been slow to allow openly gay members and leaders, but just last January the organization began accepting members based on the gender on their application, a breakthrough for transgender children.

The Boy Scouts ended those bans for gay scouts in 2013 and for scout leaders in 2015.

The Boy Scouts defended keeping out girls in the 1980s, a policy backed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.