Boy Scouts of America considering changing ban on gay members


by Claudia Coffey

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 6:47 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 29 at 8:49 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The Boy Scouts of America is considering dropping a longtime ban on gay members. If it does, it leaves the membership and leadership decisions up to local sponsors whether or not to admit openly gay members and leaders.

One thing that those on both sides of the issue can agree on, is that the announcement by the Boy Scouts of America was shocking. The announcement of the possible change comes after years of protests over the policy, including petition campaigns that have prompted some corporations to suspend donations to the boy scouts.

History could soon be made with the 100-year-old Boy Scouts of America. The group is considering a change to its long standing policy that prohibits gay members and leaders. It's a move that former scout leader Greg Bourke of Louisville says he welcomes.

“It’s very unexpected. I did not expect them to make these changes so quickly," Greg Bourke, a former Boy Scout Leader, said.

He was forced out of the scouts last summer because he is openly gay. If the new policy passes it means the National Boy Scouts organization would do away with its national policy on sexual orientation. The decision on who to admit would be decided by local chapters.

Deron Smith, a spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America, said, "The BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs."

The move comes after a decision in 2012 by the BSA to reaffirm its stand to keep gays out. But it wasn't a popular move. Membership in BSA is on the decline and financial support is suffering, the Merck Company Foundation, Intel Foundation, UPS and United Way have threatened to pull funding due to the anti-gay policy.

But many organizations are speaking out against the move. Dr. Albert Mohler the President Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says, "The new policy announced yesterday is almost sure to please no one and to lead to disaster for the scouts."

The Fairness Campaign is cautiously optimistic, but while local groups could still refuse openly gay members, there are at least other options.

It does open that door for further discrimination but it also opens the door for troops to make that decision which group to be a part of. That's at least a step in the right direction," Chris Hartman with the Fairness Campaign said.

The board is expected to vote within the next week on the policy change and could take affect by this summer.