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Utah Boy Scouts officials will vote their conscience on lifting gay ban

Published May 8, 2013 10:05 pm

Scouts • Fifteen Great Salt Lake Council members to join 1,400 voting on BSA proposal.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Great Salt Lake Council officials, who represent one of the nation's largest Boy Scouts of America groups, said Wednesday they will allow each of their 15 members to "vote their conscience" about allowing gay youths.

The 15 council representatives will join roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA National Council at a meeting in Texas the week of May 20, where a final vote will be taken on May 24 on the proposal to allow gay Scouts but exclude gay leaders.

Currently, the organization denies or revokes the membership of any gay members.

"This morning, the Great Salt Lake Council unanimously passed a motion to allow each of our 15 voters to vote their conscience as to what is in the best interest of our youth members, the council and the BSA," the Council said in a statement. "We will work closely with our Scouting family and remain totally committed to Scouting's mission and delivering our quality programs to more than 100,000 members and leaders."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the largest sponsor in the nation, with the Boy Scouts making up a large part of its youth program.

LDS Church officials have said in a statement they are "satisfied" with the latest BSA proposal to allow gay youths but exclude gay adults.

In March, the Council conducted an email survey about whether to alter membership rules. Eighty-three percent of the Boy Scout leaders, parents and representatives from charter organizations that run troops in the Council opposed lifting the ban on gay Scouts and leaders, but the response rate was only 11 percent.

The national BSA organization also conducted a survey, which found 61 percent support the current policy of excluding gay people.

When the responses were broken down further, the data showed a majority of respondents in every category supporting the BSA's current policy of excluding "open and avowed" homosexuals:

• 50 percent of Cub Scout parents support the current policy; 45 percent of Cub Scout parents oppose it.

• 61 percent of Boy Scout parents support it.

• 62 percent of unit leaders support it.

• 64 percent of council and district volunteers support it.

• 72 percent of chartered organizations support it.

The national survey encompassed five study groups – youths, parents and leaders, National Council, finance and fundraising and legal.

"Scouting's review confirmed that this remains among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today," the executive summary states. "Even with the wide range of input, it is extremely difficult to accurately quantify the potential impact of maintaining or changing the current policy."

The 15 Council members will vote on the resolution, which states that "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."

But the resolution also says youths must "abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law," honor their duty to God, and "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."

The Boy Scout oath reads: "On my honor I will do my best, To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

The Boy Scout Law says a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

rparker@sltrib.com

Twitter: @rayutah