These three lines of defiance, written in December 1991, were all that it took to propel Dr. Michael Cahn and Boy Scout Troop 260 of San Jose, Calif., to the center of a national controversy.
We do not agree that sexual orientation is immoral.
Sexual preference is a private issue.
We don't believe it to be relevant in the selection of adult leaders or in the awarding of Eagle Scout rank.
These words, written more than 20 years ago, can be seen as the start to an enormous shift in Boy Scouts policy, which may be coming to a head in the next few weeks.
At the time, being the first troop to openly push back against the Boy Scouts' antigay policies didn't go unnoticed. "I got a lot of hate mail," says Cahn, who is now 81. "But I didn't mind that." People would write, 'Go away you goddamned faggot."¦ You guys don't belong in scouting.' And I laughed at that." Or others claimed it was a Jewish conspiracy, since he was (and still is) very active in the local synagogue. However, none of these insults came to bother him. "I'm like an egg: You boil me, I get harder."
These days, Cahn is a decidedly unretired physician who still does things like lead ski trips to Lake Tahoe, attend weekly troop meetings, and work 30 hours a week at his medical practice. "Have you ever seen an 81-year old ski?" he jokes. This guy clearly doesn't quit. And that's why, two decades after almost being cast out from the Boy Scouts for approving the lines above, he's still at it. Soon, it seems, his persistence will be vindicated. The Boy Scouts are now poised to enact the very type of policy that almost made Cahn a pariah. Although he's remained quiet since then, he's never backed down from his beliefs.