It's safe to assume that nothing in the Boy Scout motto prepared Chuck Merino for rejection. Nor should it have. The respected El Cajon police officer has served the community admirably--as a cop, a community volunteer and an adviser to his department's Boy Scout Explorers program.
Now the Boy Scouts of America is trying to oust Merino, but not for incompetence or malfeasance. The Boy Scouts want him out because he's gay, a fact he refuses to hide anymore.
The local Boy Scout Council says Merino's candid--and no doubt difficult--public acknowledgment about his sexuality puts him in violation of the Boy Scouts' national policy banning openly gay men from serving as Scout leaders. So he had to go.
But if there is an open-and-shut case to be made here, it isn't in the Boy Scouts' favor. Banning a person from an organization solely based on his or her sexual preference is a clear violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the city's Human Dignity Ordinance. That gives the city every right--indeed, the obligation--to cancel the lease agreements it has with the Boy Scouts unless the organization dumps its discriminatory policy.
Currently, the Boy Scouts enjoys long-term leases on prime recreational sites in Balboa Park and on Fiesta Island. Its headquarters and campground is in the park; a new aquatic facility is on the island. The city is doing business with an organization that has written bigotry into its bylaws--and that can't be allowed to continue.
Essentially, that leaves the organization with a tough choice: It can either change its discriminatory policy and risk the wrath of the national council, or it can move its operations off public land. In other words, if it sticks with an archaic policy based on a false portrait of gay men as pedophile predators, it must accept the outcome.
Sadly, the real losers in the controversy are the youths in the now-jeopardized program. They didn't become Boy Scouts to learn intolerance. They wanted to serve the community--just as Merino has. Now the program may be disbanded because the El Cajon Police Department is wisely refusing to carry out the Boy Scouts' orders and relieve Merino of his advisory duties.
But perhaps the most troubling message is that it was all right for Merino to be gay as long as he stayed in the closet. He served the program with distinction for three years, only to be dumped when he told the truth.
City Manager Jack McGrory has notified the Boy Scouts in writing that the city "will not allow any discrimination on any basis including sexual orientation in the use or occupancy of any other organization using city-owned property."
The Boy Scouts should heed that warning--or be prepared to accept the consequences.