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Boy Scouts of America considers ending ban on openly gay members

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Long a bone of contention to the nation's homosexual rights movement, the Boy Scouts of America is now considering dropping a longtime ban on gay members. The organization may now leave such membership and leadership decisions up to local sponsors.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - "The BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation," spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement.

"This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, but that the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization's mission, principles or religious beliefs."

Under this new policy, different religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout units would be able to decide for themselves on how to address this issue, which would either maintain an exclusion of gays, as is now required of all units -- or opening their memberships.

Smith says that the Scouts have been in contact with families to determine its best interests. "BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families," he said.

If approved, it could be announced as early as next week after a BSA national board meeting.

Gay-rights activists favor the proposed policy change. Many are hailing it as another milestone and relating it to what they view as advances arising out of judicial and legislative efforts to redefine marriage to include homosexual partnerships and the end of the ban on self identified practicing gays serving openly in the military.

Southern Baptists, along with many ther Christian leaders, are highly concerned about the possible change. The Southern Baptists suggested its approval might encourage Southern Baptist churches to support other boys' organizations in lieu of the Boy Scouts.

Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts has also excluded atheists throughout its existence. Smith said a change in the policy toward atheists was not being considered, and that the BSA continued to view "Duty to God" as one of its basic principles.

More than 2.6 million scouts and one million adults were involved in the BSA in 2012, according to its Web site.

Protests over the policy gained momentum in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the BSA's right to exclude gays. Some Scout units lost sponsorships by public schools and other entities that adhered to nondiscrimination policies.

Two high-powered members of the BSA Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson indicated they would try to work from within to change the membership policy because it stood in contrast to their own companies' non-discrimination policies which include the practice of homosexuality as a protected lifestyle.

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