Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Reaction Mixed on Scouts' Gay Policy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Reaction Mixed on Scouts' Gay Policy

Article excerpt

The Boy Scouts' decision to end its ban on gay Scout leaders was characterized by one local advocate as a "monumental step back" because it still allows for discrimination, but others said they were heartened by the push for equality.

Nearly 80 percent of the 57 National Executive Board members who cast ballots Monday voted to approve the new policy, allowing gay men to become troop leaders. But church-run units are still able to turn down gays applying for leadership roles if it violates their beliefs, a provision that DaShanne Stokes, an Eagle Scout, author and civil rights activist who lives in Pittsburgh, says won't change much in the long haul.

Mr. Stokes called the new policy "a monumental step back" in his July 20 op-ed on LGBT-interest magazine Advocate.com, saying chartering organizations can still discriminate against LGBT adults.

More than 70 percent of all Boy Scout units are chartered to faith-based organizations.

But the Rev. Janet Edwards at the Community House Presbyterian Church on Pittsburgh's North Side, a longtime advocate for LGBT acceptance in the church, said the vote is "acknowledging what is already happening" because members of the LGBT community serve the Boy Scouts every day. She said the decision is another step on the road toward "full inclusive recognition."

"It really grieves me that any faithful person would bring an objection to someone wanting to give their service to the Boy Scouts for any reason, and for this particular reason," said the pastor, who joined the Taskforce on Ministry with Sexual Minorities of Pittsburgh Presbytery in 2000. "I hope that congregations that have any qualms about it will rethink and continue to participate in Boy Scouting and its mission."

LGBT advocate Carri Finkbeiner, a mother of two Boy Scouts and a Brownie who lives in Sheridan, said while she was "absolutely thrilled" by the policy change this week, there needs to be training to "bridge the gap" between people who are against the policy and those who are paving the way for changes.

She created a petition three years ago asking the Laurel Highlands Council "to reject the Boy Scouts of America's anti-gay policy," and it had nearly 1,000 supporters. …

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