- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Two area Scouting officials welcomed Monday’s vote by the top policy-making board of the Boy Scouts of America to end the blanket ban on gay adult leaders. The new policy that takes effect immediately allows church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion if that accorded with their faith.

Otschodela Council BSA executive board member Hank Nicols said: “I’m very pleased with the decision. I’m proud that it happened on my watch.”

Scouting has not kept up with the pace of change in this county, he added.

“We have already alienated many with the previous policy,” he said. “I have spoken with young families that were reluctant to have their children join because of our exclusionary policies.”

Nicols said he has let people know of the change, which he said will also respect the beliefs of others.

“It takes a long time to overcome attitudes and perceptions that have built up over 100 years, but this will help,” he said. “Now leaders will be judged solely on the quality of their character.”

The stage was set for Monday’s vote on May 21, when the BSA’s president, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, told the Scouts’ annual national meeting that that the long-standing ban on participation by openly gay adults was no longer sustainable. He said the ban was likely to be targeted by lawsuits, and that the Scouts were apt to lose.

Two weeks ago, the new policy was approved unanimously by the BSA’s 17-member National Executive Committee. It would allow local Scout units to select adult leaders without regard to sexual orientation — a stance that several Scout councils have already adopted in defiance of the official national policy. In 2013 the organization decided to allow openly gay youths as members.

Unadilla Troop 1 Scoutmaster Brian Danforth said: “It’s time to move forward.”

Danforth said he has gotten to know many gay people in scouting and said “they are fine people with lots to offer. We welcome them and look forward to seeing what they can do to add to the diversity of Scouting.”

In this age of declining enrollments, he said, “we need anyone dedicated to the values of scouting and what we stand for.”

Under the proposed new policy:

—Prospective employees of the national organization could no longer be denied a staff position on the basis of sexual orientation.

—Gay leaders who were previously removed from Scouting because of the ban would have the opportunity to reapply for volunteer positions.

—If otherwise qualified, a gay adult would be eligible to serve as a Scoutmaster or unit leader.

—There would be no change in the long-standing requirement that youth and adult Scout members profess a “duty to God.”

Like several other major youth organizations, the Boy Scouts have experienced a membership decline in recent decades. Current membership, according to the BSA, is about 2.4 million boys and about 1 million adults.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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