By Caroline Connolly, FOX 13, and Katia Hetter, CNN.
SALT LAKE CITY – The Boy Scouts of America would no longer deny membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation but would maintain its ban on openly gay adult leaders under a proposal it is considering, the group said Friday.
The organization’s executive committee made the proposal, which is expected to be presented to 1,400 voting members at a May meeting in Dallas, Texas. If the policy is approved, it will take effect January 1.
“If approved, the resolution would mean that ‘no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.’ The BSA will maintain the current membership policy for all adults,” Boy Scouts public relations director Deron Smith said.
The Boy Scouts have been considering a change in the longstanding policy against allowing openly gay members. In February, the Boy Scouts’ national executive board postponed a vote on lifting its outright ban on openly gay Scouts and troop leaders and ordered a survey of its members on the issue.
“I think the most important thing is that they feel like they won’t be rejected by their troops if they are honest about how they feel,” said Jason Dautel, an openly gay Eagle Scout in Salt Lake City who is in favor of the proposal.
The survey showed a generational split between adults and youth in the scouting community. While the majority of the 200,000 who responded support the Boy Scouts’ current policy of “excluding open and avowed homosexuals, young parents and teens tend to oppose the policy,” according to the survey, which was also released Friday.
Local Boy Scouts in Salt Lake City told FOX 13 they would welcome gay members, if they were allowed.
“Honestly, I think it should be allowed because they’re not any different just because of who they like,” said Dave Simkins.
The 13-year-old said his troop is affiliated with the LDS church, the BSA’s largest chartered organization.
“It’s a very good experience for them. They can learn basic survival skills, they can get used to camping out,” he said.
In a survey the BSA did to find out how religious and non-religious organizations would feel about the proposed changed, the LDS church was not included. However, those groups that did participate said they would lose between 100,000-350,000 scouts if there was a change in policy involving youth and adults.
The Family Research Council hopes to convince the voting members to vote “No.” The group is presenting a Stand with the Scouts simulcast on May 5, asking people to watch together in their churches and homes.
“The outcome of this decision will affect the very future of Scouting, as a shift in the policy would undermine the very principles held by the BSA for over a century,” said the council, on its website. “This decision is too important for those who value the Boy Scouts and its value to American communities to stand idly by.”
Provo, Utah, Scout leader Paul Barker sees the glass as half-full.
“I am forever an optimist, and I see it as a very big step forward in the right direction to which I will applaud,” said Barker, an Eagle Scout and married father of four, ages 4 months to 7 years.
Saddened by recent stories of Eagle Scouts turning in their badges, Barker launched Ally Patches to support gay Scouts and their allies and create an atmosphere that’s more welcoming.
Barker’s website is selling patches similar to those Scouts earn to signal support for gay members. (The price tag is $3.50 per patch, and $1 goes to the Family Acceptance Project.)
“I had great, great leaders (in the Scouts); they were like second parents to me,” he said. “I took their example of love and compassion and wanted to do something.”
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