New proposal would allow gay Scouts, not gay leaders; Utahns react
Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, likes the latest proposal from the Boy Scouts which, if approved next month, would mandate that gay youths be allowed to join local troops.
It was, she said, a step forward from a previous resolution that would have given local Scout units the option of admitting openly gay youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them.
But part of the new plan galls Larabee and other gay-rights activists it still would bar gay adult Scout leaders.
"If they grow up and are still gay," Larabee said Friday, "they are no longer welcome."
A continued ban of gay leaders would be based on "a lot of misinformation about who gay adults are," she said. It feeds the "false stereotype that gay men are sexual predators."
Earlier in the day, the Boy Scouts of America said it had changed course since the January proposal in part because of surveys sent out starting in February to about 1 million members of the Scouting community.
The review, said a BSA statement, "created an outpouring of feedback" from 200,000 respondents, some supporting the exclusion policy and others favoring a change.
The survey, according to The Associated Press, found an overwhelming majority of parents, teens and members of the Scouting community felt it would be unacceptable to deny an openly gay Scout an Eagle Scout award solely because of his sexual orientation.
"While perspectives and opinions vary significantly," the statement said, "parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting."
As a result, the BSA's Executive Committee drafted a resolution proposing to remove the ban on gay youths while keeping it for all adult leaders.
"The proposed resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program," the statement said, "and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting."
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the nation's largest Scouting sponsor took a wait-and-see approach .
"Mormon leaders will take the time needed to fully review the language," church spokesman Michael Purdy said in a statement, "and study the implications of this new proposal."
The Great Salt Lake Council also had no comment .
"We are waiting to bring the executive board together to look over the proposal as a group," said David McCammon, director of programs and marketing for the council.
Like Larabee, Peter Brownstein sees the Scouts' latest resolution "as a move towards where the organization needs to be," yet falls short of full acceptance by excluding gay leaders.
It is "a positive compromise," said Brownstein, a Utah Scout leader who had proposed creating a troop through the Pride Center for kids whose parents opposed the gay membership ban. "The Boy Scouts of America stands for great values. We need to find a way to open it up to more."
If the proposal goes through, Larabee said, it could make a big difference for gays.
"Our youth will be able to participate in activities that will improve their circumstances. ... Their support networks will expand exponentially. Others may be able to see these youth for who they are, kind and gentle souls."
That, she said, "will help save lives."
But it would still fall short, said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout from Iowa and founder of Scouts for Equality.
"For families like mine," he wrote in an email, "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."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.