Boy Scouts reconsider ban on openly gay members

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Boy Scouts reconsider ban on openly gay members

Aya Kawawa-Beaudan

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The Boy Scouts of America organization, which has long sought to prevent openly gay boys and men from joining its ranks, has announced that it will reconsider its ban in national board meetings in May, postponing discussions that were supposed to occur this week.

The proposed policy shift is being discussed at the urging of several members of the BSA’s national board, and would allow local branches of the BSA to determine and enforce their own stances on accepting gay members.

The decision was explained in a press email from Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith as a nod to sponsors across the country. “Last year, Scouting realized the policy caused some volunteers and chartered organizations which oversee and deliver the program to act in conflict with their missions, principles, or religious beliefs,” he wrote.

The announcement has received mixed reviews in Marin. Sophomore Sam Cook, a Boy Scout in the Marin Council, is happy to see the attempt at change.

“States are now passing gay marriage laws, and people are coming out in support of gay people all over the nation,” Cook said. “I think they thought the time was right for a fundamental readdressing of their values.”

Eagle Scout Noah Gottesman, a Redwood junior, is not so sure about the BSA’s motives. “It seems kind of like a publicity stunt,” he said. “The problem is that most of the funding for the BSA comes from conservative religious groups, so I doubt anything’s going to change. It seems like they’re just trying to get headlines.”

Although the BSA created a committee that spent two years examining the ban, it upheld its legitimacy as recently as July of 2012 and has fought a legal battle before the Supreme Court to maintain it.

“Still, it’s important to know that there’s a huge difference between the Boy Scouts at a national level and at a local level, especially in Marin,” Gottesman said. “I know in some places you have to say that you believe in Jesus or God if you want to join — Marin  isn’t like that.”

Cook, who was a Boy Scout in Virginia before moving to Marin, agreed. “There have been openly gay adults who serve the troops, and openly gay troop members,” he said, adding that for places less open than the Bay Area, the change would matter more.

“In Virginia, there were no openly gay kids or adults in the Boy Scouts,” Cook said. “I know kids who would have loved to join, but were unable to participate, so I think this could be seen as a tentatively positive thing.”

The ban, which was originally due to be discussed between Feb. 4-6, will be considered in May at meetings in Irving, Texas, after which the decision will be announced.