DALLAS — The Boy Scouts of America is considering dropping its ban on openly gay Scouts and volunteers, but it’s not clear what effect that would have on most local troops.
The proposal — scheduled for discussion at a national board meeting next week — would eliminate its sexual orientation policy but allow troops to keep the ban in place if they choose.
Troop organizers would “determine how to address this issue,” Scout leaders said in a news release.
“Under this proposed policy, the Boy Scouts would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” the statement said.
National Scouting officials said they were unable to comment further about the issue Monday. The Irving, Texas-based organization has been under pressure, particularly in the last year, to drop its sexual orientation policy.
Top officials for the two local Boy Scout councils said they couldn’t speculate about what percentage of troops would allow gay Scouts and volunteers. With a few exceptions those councils cover conservative areas that haven’t seen widespread opposition to the current ban.
“I am not aware of any troop in the Circle Ten (Council) that has even had a discussion about bucking the national policy,” said Pat Currie, Scout executive of the Dallas-based council.
He said there’s no way to guess what percentage of troops would accept gay members. Circle Ten encompasses a dozen counties, including one in Oklahoma, and has nearly 39,000 Scouts.
Currie estimated that about 60 percent of the troops in his council are chartered by religious institutions or faith-based organizations. PTAs and civic organizations, such as Rotary Clubs and Lions Clubs, are also common chartering groups.
Nationally, 69 percent of Boy Scout troops are chartered by faith-based organizations. The conservative Mormon Church is the largest charter by a large margin, according to the Boy Scouts.
At the Hurst, Texas-based Longhorn Council, Scout executive John Coyle said the issue of gays in Scouting hasn’t been a hot-button topic.
“I’ve had very little feedback on it,” he said. “I have people drop notes every once in a while saying one way or the other. But given the size of our membership base, it’s a very, very small number who take the time to make a comment.”
He said he’s unaware of any troops in the Longhorn Council — which covers about two dozen counties — that have taken a stance against the current national policy.
Both Currie and Coyle had no comment either in support or opposition to proposed changes to the Boys Scouts’ policy on sexual orientation.
Currie emphasized that this change is still speculative. He said there’s no certainty that the policy will change or if it does, how it would change.
The proposal comes about seven months after the Boy Scouts announced it was reaffirming its policy on gays. That followed a two-year review of the issue.
At the same time, gay issues — particularly same-sex marriage — became increasingly significant nationally.
President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to announce his support for gay marriage, and the number of states legalizing same-sex marriage increased to nine, plus the District of Columbia.
At least two troops and the large Boy Scout council in Minnesota have rejected the national restriction on sexual orientation, according to news reports. The removal of an Ohio mother and lesbian as her child’s Cub Scout den leader also became a national cause.
Opposition to the ban on gay members has come from some prominent national board members, including AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley.
But both were quiet on the subject Monday. Representatives for both corporations said Stephenson and Turley would have no comment.
The proposed change met with approval from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Scouts for Equality, even though it wouldn’t completely eliminate the ban.
The announcement was opposed by conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council, which stopped doing business with UPS after that company’s foundation pulled its funding for the Boy Scouts.
Local Scouting parents and troop officials were reluctant to speak about the issue.
Some wanted to consider the issue more before passing judgment. Others said they received emails from a Circle Ten official instructing volunteers to refer media inquiries to them.
A Cub Scout volunteer and former Eagle Scout, who asked that his name not be used for that reason, said he thinks the proposal strikes the right balance.
“I don’t want to see BSA inserting itself in the culture wars,” he said. “That’s a dangerous strategy. That’s not the organization’s purpose.”
The Dallas resident, a Republican who said he has a gay relative who was an Eagle Scout, said his thoughts about this issue have changed over the years.
He said this new approach would allow gays greater access to Scouting without “forcing everyone one way or the other.”
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