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Local Scout leaders OK with lifting gay ban

Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – Kevin McArtor was pleasantly surprised and also disappointed with the Boy Scouts of America announcement Friday.

McArtor, an adult leader for DeKalb Troop 33, said he was glad to see the organization was prepared to take a vote to allow openly gay members to join Boy Scouts, but was disappointed to see it would not extend to adult leaders.

He said his first thought went to the potentially gay scouts who could spend years working for Eagle Badge honors only to be dismissed after turning 18 years old.

“It does seem hypocritical,” he said of the proposal. “But I am really pleased they’ve taken a step to allow openly gay youth.”

The proposal, unveiled Friday after weeks of private leadership deliberations, will be submitted to the roughly 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts’ National Council during the week of May 20 at a meeting in Texas.

The key part of the resolution says no boy may be denied membership in the Scouts “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” Openly gay or lesbian adults still would be banned from serving in leadership roles.

Troop 33 Scoutmaster Cliff Golden said he had mixed feelings on the issue. He said he expected the national council to leave the decision to local chapters because many troops are supported by nonprofit organization or churches.

Golden said because the First Lutheran Church of DeKalb is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which allows gay ministers, the issue has never been a local concern. But an affirmative vote could cause issues for other chartered organizations.

“About 70 percent of troops are sponsored by churches, and they could have membership policies to reflect that faith,” Golden said. “If each unit could determine their own policy, you wouldn’t have those kind of conflicts.”

In January, the national Scouting organization said it was considering a plan to give sponsors of local scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders, or continuing to exclude them.

On Friday, the BSA said it had changed course, in part because of surveys sent out starting in February to about 1 million members of the Scouting community.

“While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting,” the statement said.

Included in the survey were dozens of churches and other religious organizations that sponsor a majority of Scout units. The BSA said many of the religious organizations expressed concern over having gay adult leaders, but were less concerned about gay youth members.

One church not concerned with the admission of gay members is the Sycamore United Methodist Church, which supports Troop 2 in Sycamore.

Kenneth Stanevich, who serves as the chartered organization representative, said the church does not take a stance either way, and said the focus should be on volunteering and helping children. He compared the Scouts excluding gay members to an organization such as The Red Cross excluding people.

“If you want to help in disasters, whether some people are gay doesn’t impact you in any great way,” he said. “We’re just here to volunteer and help.”

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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