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Boy Scouts vote to allow gay youth, still excludes gay adults

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) today voted to lift a ban on gay youth but kept in place its policy of excluding openly gay adults, Think Progress reports.

The move has been hailed in some quarters as a long-awaited breakthrough. In an interview with The New York Times, 27-year-old Matt Comer, who was forced out of his Scout troop when he was 14 after starting a gay-straight alliance at his school, said he's waited 13 years for the change. After having his dream of being an Eagle Scout dashed, he called today's news "some justice for me and others."

Comer points out, however, that the scope of the change means gay youth will eventually be told they'll no longer be welcome, when they turn 18.

Queer advocacy group GLAAD says that while the vote "opens up Scouting for young men, it will not help [Jennifer] Tyrrell or the countless other LGBT parents and families who wish to participate in Scouting," adding that it will continue to keep the pressure on and fight for full equality.

Tyrrell is a den leader from Ohio who was removed from her seven-year-old’s Cub Scout pack for being gay. Her original change.org petition attracted more than 345,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and adult leaders. More than 1.8 million people signed change.org petitions since Tyrrell launched that first petition. 

"Today is truly a watershed moment for me, but even more so for the millions of kids across this country, who will now be allowed to serve in the Scouts without fear of rejection," Tyrrell said after the BSA vote. "I'm so proud of how far we've come, but until there's a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue."

In an op-ed in USA Today on the eve of the vote, BSA president Wayne Perry wrote, "While some people wish the proposed resolution would go further, it was clear from our listening phase that changing adult standards would have conflicted with the majority of our partners, 70 percent of which are religious organizations, and would have disrupted our ability to deliver Scouting. Conversely, some have asserted that the proposed change for youth runs counter to the values of, and raises concerns among, Scouting's religious chartered organizations.

"We are unaware of any major religious chartered organization that believes a youth member simply stating he or she is attracted to the same sex, but not engaging in sexual activity, should make him or her unwelcome in their congregation," Perry continued. "We reviewed a variety of policy options and concluded this option would provide kids a place to belong while they learn and grow."

Perry added, "Some have voiced concerns that this proposal could put children at risk of being abused. The BSA makes no connection between sexual abuse and homosexuality. The nation's leading experts agree. The BSA has stringent polices that protect the safety and privacy of youth and has always worked to ensure that it is a supportive and safe environment."

Those opposed to the BSA's decision to welcome gay youth, like the conservative Family Research Council, say the move will lead to an exodus of thousands of boys and parents, The Times says, quoting the FRC's senior vice-president, Robert Schwarzwalder, as saying that "this great institution is going to be vitiated by the intrusion of a political agenda."

People on both sides of the debate say the matter is not likely to end after today's vote, suggesting that the Scouts would most likely be compelled to allow gay adults, "whether by lawsuits or embarrassment at the twisted logic of forcing an Eagle Scout who turns 18 to quit," The Times reports.