Boy Scouts move vote on gay ban

Scouts Reynolds

By Tiffanie Reynolds |

On the last day of a three-day private meeting, the board members of the Boy Scouts of America decided to not vote on lifting a ban on gay scouts and leaders, moving the vote to the national meeting in May.

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” a Boy Scouts of America press release stated.

Whatever the national decision will be, the North Florida Council of Boy Scouts thinks it will be streamlined and followed by every council across America.

“I can say that local councils agree to support the decisions made by the volunteer national executive board. Our united focus is on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training,” Jack L. Sears, Jr., scout executive and CEO of the North Florida Council, said.

Under the potential new policy, there would not be a national ban on openly gay scouts and leaders in Boy Scouts, but rather the inclusion of gay scouts and leaders would be determined by the local troops. The organizations that sponsor local troops would “accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” Sears said, therefore letting the troop decide what best meets their needs.

This selectivity does not sit well with most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights organizations, which believe that it would create an unequal playing field for gay scouts and their families, with some troops accepting gays and others excluding them.

“I think that the scouts fail to meet their own standards of courage and leadership when they take such a half step of simply not requiring that gay scouts and gay scout leaders be discriminated against,” Brian Winfield, managing director of Equality Florida, said.

If the ban is lifted, it could mean more acceptance by churches and other organizations affiliated with the Boy Scouts, but Winfield cautions that it still gives troops the option to discriminate against scouts that identify as gay.

The Boy Scouts of America have officially banned gay scouts and leaders since 1991, stating that “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight.” Since then, the policy on sexual orientation has been fine tuned, with the organization stating that it does not ask about the sexual orientation of its members and leaders, but that discussions on such subjects should take place outside of scouting.

Local troop leaders declined to comment on this story.

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