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Values groups, rights advocates criticize Boy Scouts’ proposed policy on gays
Question of the Day
The Boy Scouts of America's plan to drop its ban on gay Scouts but to continue to bar homosexual Scout leaders and employees has advocates on both sides of the issue unhappy.
The Boy Scouts proposal, announced Friday, "would introduce homosexuality into the ranks and eventually the leadership of Scouting," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, one of Washington's most prominent traditional-values groups.
"This is totally unacceptable to the vast majority of Scouting parents who want to keep their exclusive right to discuss issues of sexuality with their sons," Mr. Perkins said.
On the other side of the issue, Chad Griffin, president of the national gay-rights advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, said the Boy Scouts' proposed compromise remains discriminatory.
"This resolution must go further," he said.
The proposed resolution is scheduled for a vote by some 1,400 members at a national conference next month in Grapevine, Texas.
Voting members, whose names and addresses will be kept confidential, must be present to vote. If the resolution passes, it will go into effect Jan. 1. If it is not passed, current policy will stand with no plans for further review, the Boy Scouts said.
The 103-year-old organization said it received an "outpouring of feedback" about its membership policy, which does not permit "open or avowed homosexuals" as members, leaders or volunteers.
Its proposed policy keeps that ban for adults, which means the Boy Scouts will not accept lesbian den mothers or openly gay scoutmasters.
But — after clarifying that young Scouts should not be engaging in sexual activity, neither heterosexual nor homosexual — the proposed resolution says that "no youth may be denied membership ... on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."
The proposed resolution reflects the widest agreement of people who were surveyed on the issues, the Boy Scouts said.
Most of about 200,000 adult members of the Scouting community said they "support the BSA's current policy of excluding open and avowed homosexuals," the Boy Scouts said. But in other surveys of parents with sons and teens, including 200 teenage Scouts, most tended "to oppose the policy."
The Boy Scouts upheld its membership policy in July but backtracked in January, floating a proposal to end the national membership policy and let local councils set their own rules.
The ensuing outcry forced Scouting executives to table their proposal, collect more information and come up with the latest proposal — which does not permit local councils to set membership policies.
Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality, said Friday that his group applauded an end to a ban on gay Scouts, "and we will work to encourage members of the National Council to vote to approve it."
"But we will continue to fight to push discrimination out of Scouting once and for all. For families like mine, the BSA's ban on gay leaders will continue to prevent many great and loving parents from sharing the joys of Scouting with their children," said Mr. Wahls, who is not gay but has two lesbian mothers.
John Stemberger, Eagle Scout and founder of OnMyHonor.net, a coalition of Scouting parents, leaders and alumni that supports the current policy in its entirety, said Friday that the proposed resolution should be voted down.
This proposal is "an incremental step for full-blown, open homosexuality in all Scouting in the future," said Mr. Stemberger. "Parents should still have the final say on the issues of sexuality and politics. Allowing open homosexuality in the BSA injects both those topics right into the program."
The proposed resolution restates the contested policy, which says: "While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA." This policy will be maintained for all adult leaders of the BSA.
The resolution further says that "any sexual contact, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," and that the Boy Scouts of America does not "have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation" and members "may not use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda."
It concludes by saying that the Boy Scouts organization "is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements," and that "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." However, all youths participating in Scouting must "(a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law."
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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.
Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
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