Boy Scouts consider changing policy on gays

Boy Scouts consider changing policy on gays

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Boy Scouts of America is considering allowing openly gay members and leaders and it would leave the decision up to local groups. It is potentially a big development as the organization has had a long standing position against allowing openly gay scouts.

Steve Wagoner recalls fond memories of being a Cub Scout and Boy Scout in New Jersey.  Skip ahead to present day and he is an openly gay board member of Equality Hawaii who thinks it's about time the Boy Scouts of America stops sending mixed messages.

"When you are teaching social responsibility and civic awareness and then teaching children it's also okay to discriminate, those are two principles I don't think can be further apart," said Steve Wagoner, Equality Hawaii.

Today the Boy Scouts said instead of a blanket ban against gays, it is considering the option of allowing its local chartered organizations decide if it will open membership to homosexuals or keep the ban in place.

"(Boy Scouts of America) members and parents would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families," said Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations for the Boy Scouts of America, in a written statement.

This consideration comes just six months after the Boy Scouts reiterated its policy against homosexuals.

"This shows that there is movement. And so we're happy. We know it's good for the kids. It's just it needs to be across the board," said Carolyn Golojuch, PFLAG Oahu, Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Gay advocates say it's not enough considering a kid could be accepted in one town but not another. Many of the local scout organizations are chartered by religious group and it could be possible to have troops in neighboring communities take a different stance on the issue.

"A child can live in as many as five or more states in their adolescence. Being accepted in one area and then they move to another and they can't be part of the Boy Scouts. How traumatic is that? And how detrimental to their own psyche?" said Golojuch.

"I think the values are important and I think all children should be included. I think discrimination is wrong on all fronts but especially against children. It's especially hurtful," said Wagoner. "When you discriminate against the children, when you discriminate against the scout leaders, really the people that hurt at the end of the day are the children."

The local Boy Scouts of America Aloha Council in Hawaii said it was too early to talk and would not say what it would do if given a choice to allow gays.  However it is obligated to support what the national council decides.

The national board will meet next week.  People on both sides of the issue should be prepared for anything.

The following is a written statement by Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations for the Boy Scouts of America:

"For more than 100 years Scouting's focus has been on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.

"Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, but that the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization's mission, principles or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families.

"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization's mission, principles or religious beliefs."

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