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Boy Scouts mull gay decision

BY ANDREW POTOCKI | JULY 20, 2015 5:00 AM

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Less than a month after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide, the executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America has ruled in favor of letting openly gay men serve as scout leaders.

According to the official statement from the Boy Scouts, the decision was made because of rapid changes in society and increasing legal challenges at the federal, state, and local levels.

The decision is not quite final, however; the Scouts’ National Executive Board must now vote on July 27 whether to ratify the committee’s decision and make it official.

Bob Hopper, the CEO of the Boy Scouts of America Mid-Iowa Council, said he believes it will pass with no issues.

“I’m very confident the decision will get passed almost unanimously and if not, very close to it,” he said.

Scout leaders in both the Mid-Iowa and Hawkeye regions said if the board votes in favor of the decision, they don’t expect to see much of a difference in their specific regions.

“I think the effect will be neutral,” Hopper said.  “When the scouts voted to allow gay youth into scouts, we didn’t have any real change on how we ran things; it was just open to more people.”

Sarah Dawson, the CEO of the Hawkeye Boy Scouts of America region, also said standards wouldn’t change.

“This decision will not change the fact all chartered organizations will select their leaders and require adult leaders to demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others,” she said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity because the vote hasn’t occurred yet, a gay assistant scoutmaster from Iowa agreed.

“Sexual orientation has no bearing on a scout’s or scouter’s ability to be a good leader and learn from the core values set forth by the Oath and Law of Scouting,” he said.

Looking forward to a yes vote, he said, he’ll be relieved when being a gay scout leader isn’t something he has to hide anymore.

“I feel really insecure, because it’s really easy to leak something or to talk to someone accidentally,” he said. “It’s a constant worry of mine.”

While a 2013 vote overturned a 22-year-old ban on openly gay Boy Scouts, children can still face hurdles in the organization.

“We had a couple scouts at camp last week who are openly gay, and a lot of the kids didn’t talk to them,” the assistant scoutmaster said.

If the vote passes, he said, he hopes having adult leaders who are gay could be a positive influence for not only those openly gay scouts but others as well.

If ratified however, the new policy doesn’t say gay men will be allowed to serve as scout leaders everywhere.

Instead, organizations chartered with the scouts such as churches will still be allowed to choose adult leaders who they feel have beliefs consistent with their own.

Currently, the assistant scoutmaster’s troop is chartered through a church, and he said it’s possible it will still retain the old policies despite a yes vote.

If that happens, he said, he would be forced to switch to a new troop, despite having plenty of positive support from his family and friends. Being in the Boy Scouts is the only thing keeping him from coming out, he said.

“Scouting is the only thing that holds me back, because I’m passionate about the program, but the current policy says I can’t participate if I’m an openly gay person,” he said.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout, executive director of Scouts for Equality, and former Daily Iowan writer, said they’re very excited to see this resolution pass.

“The resolution isn’t perfect, but it is definitely a step in the right direction,” he said.

Even if the scouts’ executive board was to vote yes, Wahls said, people will continue to lobby the Boy Scouts into adopting a full nondiscriminatory policy.

While he said he expects the board to vote in favor of the decision, he said Scouts for Equality would be ready if they didn’t.

“The scouts’ moto is ‘Be Prepared,’ so we have to be prepared for whatever might happen,” he said.


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