- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2013

Openly gay youths can join the Boy Scouts of America, its voting members decided Thursday, though gay leaders promptly called the change in the century-old program for boys and teens inadequate and vowed to continue to pressure the Scouts to go further.

More than 60 percent of the approximately 1,400 local Boy Scouts of America leaders voting Thursday afternoon supported the proposed resolution drafted by the organization’s governing board, which also specifically reaffirms the ban on gay adults serving as Scout leaders.

SEE ALSO: 20 members of Congress urge Boy Scouts to accept gays

Scouting leaders will begin to work immediately on changes related to the policy, which will go into effect Jan 1. The newly adopted sentence says, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

But adults who are open homosexuals still may not be scoutmasters, leaders, volunteers or employees, and that part of the outcome means the bitter debate over the Scouts’ membership policy is unlikely to end.

The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement that this decision ends the issue and it will not revisit the ban on gay adults. But gay-rights advocates have other ideas.

Chad Griffin, leader of the Human Rights Campaign, immediately said the vote was a good first step, but “the new policy doesn’t go far enough.”

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry and attorney for James Dale, the plaintiff in the lawsuit that sought to forcibly overturn the Boy Scouts’ policy on gays in 2000, tweeted that “discrimination when youth turn 18 is wrong and unworkable. Finish the job.”

Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality and son of two lesbian mothers, said he wasn’t satisfied either. “I got into this fight for my parents, and I want to finish this fight for my parents,” he said, according to a CBS-TV affiliate in Dallas.

At the other end, an unknown number of Scouting supporters are likely to leave.

“It is with great sadness and deep disappointment that we recognize on this day that the most influential youth program in America has turned a tragic corner,” said John Stemberger, Eagle Scout and founder of OnMyHonor.net. “The vote today to allow open and avowed homosexuality into Scouting will completely transform it into an unprincipled and risky proposition for parents. It is truly a sad day for Scouting.”

“I’m very disappointed. I was hoping that the delegates would step up and protect us in a way that the executives had failed to,” said David Metcalf, a Scout leader of a Christian home-schooling troop, who talked to WFAA-TV in Dallas with his 13-year-old son.

Mr. Metcalf said his troop will “put our guard up,” and pay “very close attention” to how the policy on homosexuality is implemented. “Of course, we will consider” pulling out of the BSA, he added.

Public rallies

For weeks before the vote, groups on both sides gathered petitions, held rallies and news conferences, and otherwise encouraged support for their positions on the policy.

The Boy Scouts of America membership policy also stipulates that “any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual,” among its youths “is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” and that Scouting should not be used “to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda.”

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