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The Shakerite

Boy Scouts Table Decision on Gay Members

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Local Boy Scout troops have decided not to forbid gay people from participating in scouting despite the current ban.

One of the nation’s largest private youth organizations, the Boy Scouts of America, seriously considered eliminating their decades-long ban on gay members and leaders earlier this month, only to postpone their decision until May.

Local Boy Scout troop leader Benjamin Nutter said he was disappointed by the organization’s move to delay the decision. “I’m worried the postponement will stop the ban from being removed,” Nutter said.

If the policy had been changed at a national Boy Scout board member meeting Feb. 6, it would have been a radical shift from the Boy Scout’s current ban on gay members and leaders. The youth organization currently has policies that prohibit gay people, atheists and agnostics from being a part of the organization on the grounds that such people directly violate the organization’s principles. The policy change would have eliminated the ban from the national organization’s rules and left local scout organizations to decide for themselves whether to allow gay scouts and leaders.

Before the announcement that the decision to remove the ban was postponed, sophomore Boy Scout Jack Canaday said adult leaders in his and other local troops circulated a statement that said they would disregard national organization policy on gay people. “Recently, leadership in our troop and troops in the area decided that if the council decides to keep the ban in effect, they will ignore the policy,” Canaday said. 

Referring to himself and several other troop leaders, Nutter said, “We’ve already decided to ignore [the ban].” Despite this, he said he would be very excited if the national organization removed it.

In 2000, the Boy Scouts won a Supreme Court case, 5-4, ruling that the ban was constitutional because the BSA is a private organization. However, the organization is under increasing pressure from gay rights activists and others, including President Barack Obama, to lift the ban.

Last July, the organization released a public statement reaffirming the ban on gay members despite many public protests. After the reaffirmation, Boy Scouts faced a membership decline and a donations boycott by some corporations over its anti-gay policy. Youth membership in the Boy Scouts has declined 21 percent since 2000, and adult leader membership has declined by 14 percent. Activists have pushed corporations such as UPS and the United Way to withhold contributions to the organization due to the ban as well.

Before the organization’s national meeting, Obama endorsed removing the ban on gay members. “The Scouts are a great institution . . . and I think that nobody should be barred from that,” he said during an interview with CBS news on Super Bowl Sunday Feb. 2.  By Feb. 6, the BSA had delayed the vote.

 A version of this article appeared in print on 20 february 2013, on page 3 of The Shakerite.

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The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization
Boy Scouts Table Decision on Gay Members