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Reports: Scouts to lift gay youth ban, NE IL Council supports
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is poised to remove its ban on openly gay scouts, the organization has announced. The ban on openly gay adult leaders, however, would remain.

After years of controversy surrounding the ban on openly gay scouts and leaders, the organization's executive committee has drafted a resolution "that would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone and would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America," a BSA statement said.

The resolution still needs to be approved at BSA's national meeting next month.

But LGBT leaders criticized the proposal as falling short.

"It is good news that BSA leadership is open to ending the ban on gay Scouts, but this resolution must go further," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, in a statement. "Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans. What message does this resolution send to the gay Eagle Scout who, as an adult, wants to continue a lifetime of scouting by becoming a troop leader?"

Rich Ferraro, vice president of communications at GLAAD, said in a statement that BSA had failed its stakeholders who support an end to discrimination.

"By refusing to consider an end to its ban on gay and lesbian parents, the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy," Ferraro said. "We're living in a culture where, until every young person and parent have the same opportunity to serve, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations."

Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio mom who was forced out of her son's troop because of her sexual orientation, said the proposal continued to send the message that her family is not good enough.

"My heart goes out to the young adults in Scouting who would be able to continue as scouts if this is passed, but then be thrown out when they reach the age to become leaders," she said in a statement.

Zach Wahls, the founder of Scouts for Equality and a son of lesbian moms expressed mixed feelings on the proposal, in a media statement.

"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," Wahls said. "But today, this is about the kids, and we are glad that the Boy Scouts of America is taking this historic step forward."

The April 19 announcement comes alongside news that the BSA Northeast Illinois Council (NEIC) told its members that it will support a change in the policy, confirmed Mike Hale, the council's scout executive.

The NEIC proposal recommends removing language that bans openly gay members and replacing it with an anti-discrimination statement.

"While recognizing the rights of our chartered organizations to determine the leadership and membership of their units in accordance with the lawful principles of those chartered organizations, it is the policy of the BSA as an organization not to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, religious affiliation, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, socio-economic status, or political affiliation," the proposal reads.

Hale said that the council's board met and created a statement in support of the change after most of the groups member's said they wanted the anti-gay language removed.

"They felt that times have changed, that people are more accepting of other lifestyles," Hale said.

Hale said that the council heard from both sides on the issue, but that most, including most church-based groups, advocated for the change.

"Many of our faith-based charters have different policies than ours," said Hale. "They're more inclusive than ours."

NEIC council is one of about 280 councils nationwide. NEIC will not weigh in on whether BSA should allow individual charters to create their own policies around gay scouts, Hale said. Rather, the council will advocate for the removal of the national rule against gay scouting.

The BSA Chicago Area Council did not specifically address its stance on the ban in a statement released to Windy City Times.

"Our council's focus will remain on creating an environment where people who may disagree on a variety of topics can still work together to achieve life-changing benefits to youth through the scouting program," the group said.

The scouts' ban on gay members has embroiled the national organization in controversy in recent months, as the group announced earlier this year it was considering ending the ban, but then declined to make an immediate decision.

BSA is expected to vote on the resolution at its national meeting in May.

According to the Scouting Magazine blog, the BSA resolution is as follows:

"Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements to join the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing programs. Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (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. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."

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