Alumnus Jay Lenrow ’77 Leads the Fight for Equal Rights in the Boy Scouts

Growing up in New Jersey, Jay Lenrow ’77 was a Boy Scout, eventually rising to the rank of Eagle Scout.  For him, being a Boy Scout has always been a family affair; his father was a Life Scout and his son is also an Eagle Scout. According to Lenrow, scouting helped to define his values, including forming his strong belief in equality.

After graduating from American University Washington College of Law in 1977 and moving to Baltimore, Lenrow’s involvement in the Scouting movement led him to become the executive vice president of the Boy Scout’s northeast region and chairman of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.  For more than a decade, he has been a leading voice within the movement for pushing the Boy Scouts to lift its ban on gay members. 

“When I walked into my first Cub Scout meeting with my father 55 years ago this past March, I was welcomed into an environment where I was taught to do the right thing notwithstanding any personal consequences,” said Lenrow. “I have always tried to remember this, and when I was a Cub Scout Den Leader and then a Scoutmaster, I tried to teach this to the Scouts.” 

On May 23, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America lifted the ban on openly gay boys being allowed to be scouts.  For Lenrow, though, the fight for equal rights is not over. While the Boy Scouts changed their policy on youth, gay adults are still not permitted to serve as leaders.  Leading a coalition of scout leaders, Lenrow continues to advocate for equality in the Boy Scout’s leadership ranks. 

“I’m confident I will be able to go back to the Scout leadership and show them there is nothing to be afraid of, and that we should open our doors and do the right thing for all of those who want to be a part of the Boy Scouts,” said Lenrow.

Reflecting on why he has led the fight for equality, Lenrow’s answer is clear: “As an attorney, I have always believed in a meritocracy where people are judged by their character and not by their skin color, religion, ethnic background, or sexual orientation.  I have had many friends through the years who do not fit traditional molds but all of whom shared a common belief in equality.  As for my involvement, one of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said ‘What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.’”