Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 23, 2013

Boy Scouts OK plan to accept openly gay boys

Niagara Gazette — GRAPEVINE, Texas  — In one of their most dramatic choices in a century, local leaders of the Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to ease a divisive ban and allow openly gay boys to be accepted into the nation's leading youth organization.

Gay adults will remain barred from serving as Scout leaders.

Of the local Scout leaders voting at their annual meeting in Texas, more than 60 percent supported the proposal.

Casting ballots were about 1,400 voting members of BSA's National Council who were attending their annual meeting at a conference center not far from BSA headquarters in suburban Dallas.

The vote will not end the wrenching debate over the Scouts' membership policy, and it could trigger defections among those on the losing side.

Some conservative churches that sponsor Scout units wanted to continue excluding gay youths, and in some cases threatened to leave the BSA if the ban were lifted.

More liberal Scout leaders — while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth — wanted the ban on gay adults lifted as well.

The BSA could also take a hit financially. Many Scout units in conservative areas feared their local donors would stop giving if the ban on gay youth were lifted, while many major corporate donors were likely to withhold donations if the ban had remained.

In January, the BSA executive committee suggested a plan to give sponsors of local Scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them. However, the plan won little praise, and the BSA changed course after assessing responses to surveys sent out starting in February to members of the Scouting community.

The BSA's overall "traditional youth membership" — Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers — is now about 2.6 million, compared with more than 4 million in peak years of the past. It also has about 1 million adult leaders and volunteers.

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