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Scouts lift ban on gays

Friday, May 24, 2013

From Bulletin and AP reports

GRAPEVINE, Texas — The Boy Scouts of America threw open its ranks Thursday to gay Scouts but not gay Scout leaders — a fiercely contested compromise that some warned could fracture the organization and lead to mass defections of members and donors.

Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal drafted by the governing Executive Committee. The policy change takes effect Jan. 1.

“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting,” the BSA said after announcing the results at the council’s annual meeting near Dallas.

Lew Hege of Martinsville, the Patrick Henry District executive for the Boy Scouts, said he was not among the four people from the Blue Ridge Mountains Council of the Boy Scouts of America who cast votes on the issue Thursday. The names of those four — all volunteers — were not released, he said.

He said he agreed with the decision to allow gay youth to join the organization. He added that he was not sure if other Scouts locally support it as well, “but I certainly hope so,” and he does not anticipate any problems or repercussions from the decision among the local troops.

Hege, who was an Eagle Scout at age 14, a Scouting volunteer for 50 years and a professional with the organization for the last two years, said the 1,400 voting members felt that opening Scouting to gay members is an idea whose time has come.

“But I will say one thing, the Boy Scouts have said ... for a long time that any sexual conduct, heterosexual or homosexual, is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” he said, noting that the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement to that effect on Thursday. “That’s been the policy of the Boy Scouts for 103 years.”

“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue,” the statement added.

However, the outcome is not expected to end the bitter debate over the Scouts’ membership policy.

Liberal Scout leaders — while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth — have made clear they want the ban on gay adults lifted as well.

In contrast, conservatives with the Scouts — including some churches that sponsor Scout units — wanted to continue excluding gay youths, in some cases threatening to defect if the ban were lifted.

“We are deeply saddened,” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee after learning of the result. “Homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout oath and Scout law.”

The result was welcomed by many gay-rights groups, which joined in the call for an end to the ban on gay adults.

“I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, but until there’s a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue,” said Jennifer Tyrrell, who’s ouster as a Cub Scout den leader in Ohio because she is lesbian launched a national protest movement.


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