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Boy Scouts of America propose lifting ban on gay youth

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) proposes to lift a longstanding ban on openly gay youth members but will continue to exclude gay adults.

The BSA's board plans to submit the proposal to about 1,400 national council voting members next month in Texas, according to The Associated Press.

Reuters points out that the policy compromise could lead to "a situation where a gay youth could become a Scout and then be forced to resign when he becomes an adult." 

BSA spokesperson Deron Smith told Reuters that if the measure is approved, "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."

Reuters says it obtained an internal BSA document that says once youth members become adults, they "must meet the requirements of our adult standards" to remain in the organization.

While welcoming the chance for change, gay rights groups say the continuation of the ban on gay adults is unacceptable. 

Reuters quotes Rich Ferraro, of the queer advocacy group GLAAD, as saying that the BSA's refusal to end its ban on gay and lesbian parents is a missed opportunity to "exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy."

In July last year, the BSA upheld its ban on openly gay members, volunteers and staff. Months later, the organization was considering the removal of the ban, proposing that local branches be allowed to decide whether they'll accept gay members. A vote on that question was put off after a request from a coalition of 33 faith-based councils, Reuters notes. 

At the same time that the BSA reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays, despite ongoing criticism and protests, 19-year-old Eagle Scout and summer camp counsellor Eric Jones was shown the door after revealing he is gay to his camp director. The camp director told Jones, who had been a member for almost 10 years, that while he deserved to be there, BSA policy is BSA policy: no openly gay people allowed. That same month, Martin Cizmar returned his Eagle Scout badge in protest against the BSA's reaffirmation of that policy.

A growing number of corporations, including UPS, Intel, United Way and Merck also pulled their support for the Boy Scouts because of the policy. 

The CEOs of AT&T and Ernst & Young had also called for an end to the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay stance. AT&T’s Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young’s James Turley both sit on the national board of the Boy Scouts of America.

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