Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Boy Scouts Postpone Decision on Ending National Ban on Gays

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Boy Scouts Postpone Decision on Ending National Ban on Gays

Article excerpt

A proposal floated recently would allow local scouting councils to decide membership rules for themselves.

The Boy Scouts of America, which reconfirmed last summer its policy banning openly gay people from participation, then said last week that it was reconsidering the ban, said on Wednesday that it would postpone their decision until May, as talk of gays in the ranks has roiled a storied organization that carries deep emotional connection and nostalgia for millions of Americans.

An end to the national ban on gays, which the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2000 was legal free speech by a private organization, would create a huge new moment of risk, experimentation and change people on both sides of the issue said. The proposal floated last week would allow local scouting councils to decide membership rules for themselves.

The proposed change creates multiple fracture lines. Some supporters of the ban said they feared a wave of departures by conservative church-sponsored troops, while supporters of the change said that scouting, with fewer boys every year donning the forest green uniform, would be revitalized. Scout leaders who favored a complete about-face on gays -- prohibiting discrimination everywhere in the organization -- said the compromise position by the Executive Board would still leave scouting open to charges of homophobia by its critics, since discrimination on the basis of gender orientation would still be allowed locally.

Other scout leaders and parents said a fracture between conservative scout councils and liberal ones could create walls or could open the door to a new dialogue about difference and diversity.

The debate over the issue, according to scout leaders and parents, was shaped by two great historic forces that have defined scouting for decades: The huge role played by churches in sponsoring scout troops, and the tradition of local control that scout chapters, or councils, have had in shaping the flavor of scouting. …

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