A pivotal vote on the Boy Scouts of America's membership policy is still two weeks away, but advocates for and against admitting openly gay youth are busy making their cases.
On Thursday, Scouts for Equality, which was formed to end the ban on "open or avowed homosexuals" in Scouting, praised a new media poll that showed strong support for its position.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 63 percent of 1,000 adults agreed with the statement that "it is time that all Scouts be treated as equal," noted Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the organization.
"This fight cannot and will not end until every Scout, Scout leader and parent are welcome, making BSA the strongest it has ever been," said Mr. Wahls, who was raised by two lesbians. Some 6,700 Eagle Scouts support his organization.
A vote will be taken on a proposed BSA membership policy at a May 22-24 national meeting in Texas.
The proposed BSA policy would still prevent openly gay adults from being Scout leaders, volunteers or employees, but it would permit openly gay youth to be admitted as Scouts. Some 1,400 delegates will decide whether to accept or reject the proposed policy.
This week, the Great Salt Lake Council in Utah, which represents 100,000 members and leaders, passed a motion "to allow each of our 15 voters to vote their conscience as to what is in the best interest of our youth members."
Meanwhile, in Texas, leaders of the Sam Houston Area Council, which serves nearly 50,000 youth, voted to have its 12 delegates vote in favor of keeping the current policy, while leaders of two BSA councils in Tennessee said they will do the same.
On May 5, Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Rep. Steven Palazzo, Mississippi Republican; and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins as well as pastors, parents, Scout leaders and youth participated in a simulcast where they asked Scouting supporters to "stand up" for the "time-tested" membership policy — and not be "bullied" or financially pressured into changing it.
The current policy helps ensure that sexual issues are not a focus of the BSA, some parents said in the "Stand with Scouts Sunday" webcast.
The policy also helps protect boys and teens from confusing role models, uncomfortable problems with BSA buddy systems, and unwanted peer-to-peer sexual advances, said youth leaders.
John Stemberger, an Eagle Scout and founder of OnMyHonor.net, which co-hosted the simulcast, said changing the policy would "devastate the program," as many BSA chartering organizations and Scouting families would cease their involvement with the 103-year-old organization.
In Canada, "tolerance and diversity" led to the loss of more than half of Scouting members, added Brian Rushfeldt, president and executive director of Canada Family Action.
However, groups like Human Rights Campaign (HRC) are urging supporters to send tens of thousands of letters to Boy Scout councils nationwide to lift the ban on gay youth joining scouts. "Please, help end this harmful, archaic policy," HRC said.
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