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Morally Straight

How the Fight for LGBTQ+ Inclusion Changed the Boy Scouts—and America

Published by Pegasus Books
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

This deeply-reported narrative illuminates the battle for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Boy Scouts of America, a decades-long struggle led by teenagers, parents, activists, and everyday Americans.

Weaving in his own experience as a scout and journalist, Mike De Socio’s Morally Straight tells a story that plays out over the course of nearly forty years, beginning in an era when gay rights were little more than a cultural sideshow; when same-sex marriage was not even on the radar; and when much of the country was recommitting to conservative social mores. It was during this treacherous time that accidental activists emerged, challenging one of America’s most iconic institutions in a struggle that would forever change the country’s view of gay people and the rights they held in society.

In Morally Straight we meet James Dale, the poster child of Scouting who took his fight for inclusion to the Supreme Court; Steven Cozza, the 12-year-old scout in California who started a movement for inclusion called Scouting for All; Jennifer Tyrrell, the lesbian den mother whose expulsion from the Scouts reignited the gay membership controversy; Zach Wahls, the son of lesbian moms who led the final push for policy change; and an array of other previously unknown Scouters who played smaller—but no less crucial—roles in the fight for full inclusion.

Richly reported and filled with unforgettable people, Morally Straight braids together these characters and brings to life their collective struggle. This is an essential narrative in the American LGBTQ+ rights movement, and a truly American story about the fight for a better future for our nation’s bedrock youth organization.

About The Author

Mike De Socio is an award-winning independent journalist who writes about social justice and solutions. He grew up in New Jersey, where he became an Eagle Scout, and later earned a degree in journalism from Boston University. His work has been published in the Washington Post, Bloomberg, the Guardian, Fortune, Xtra, YES! Magazine, and more. He now lives with his partner in upstate New York.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Pegasus Books (July 18, 2024)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781639363858

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Raves and Reviews

"In this uplifting debut, journalist De Socio recaps the decades-long battle to lift the Boy Scouts’ ban on openly gay members. He movingly explains how, as someone with a lifelong involvement with the Scouts, his own coming-out was hampered by the organization’s ban on gay adult volunteers. It’s a poignant account of an institution’s worst impulses being overcome by members dedicated to its ideals."

Publishers Weekly

"Taking its title from the Boy Scout Oath, Morally Straight weaves detailed journalism and De Socio’s deeply personal memories in its recounting of the effort to lift bans on LGBTQ+ Boy Scouts and their leaders. Morally Straight is both clear-eyed and optimistic. BSA is now a broader tent, accepting gay, trans, and even female Scouts. But, as De Socio’s own experiences show, it still grapples with how to give its members the space and tools to remain true to who they are."


"A former Boy Scout analyzes how the group has evolved across tumultuous decades of LGBTQ+ exclusion. An inspiring report on how a quintessentially American youth organization finally exercised queer inclusivity."

Kirkus Reviews

“With masterful reporting and gripping prose, ‘Morally Straight’ reveals the futility of trying to defeat people who’ve been trained as champions of right over wrong, to occupy the high ground, and to lead with honor and integrity. Mike De Socio has written a powerful and essential history for anyone who cares about justice and creating change."

Mitchell Zuckoff, New York Times bestselling author of 13 Hours and Lost in Shangri-La.

"From its opening pages, Morally Straight hooks you and never lets you wriggle off. Deftly weaving together the inspiring if often heart-breaking stories of the courageous individuals who fought back against the discriminatory and exclusionary policies of the Boy Scouts of America, Mike De Socio crafts a thoroughly absorbing and poignantly personal narrative that underscores the power of social activism to transform even the most iconic and intransigent of institutions. This is a must read for anyone, which should be everyone, who cares about the past, present, and future of the battle for LGBTQ+ inclusion."

Richard J. Ellis, author of Judging the Boy Scouts of America: Gay Rights, Freedom of Association, and the Dale Case 

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