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US: Debate heats up as Boy Scouts expected to give decision on gay ban today

Joseph McCormick February 6, 2013

The Boy Scouts of America is expected to give a decision today on a vote by its board on whether to drop its ban on gay members, volunteers and staff.

The BSA announced last week that it could soon lift its national ban on allowing gay members, volunteers and staff. Its National Executive Board has been in discussions since Monday, and a decision is expected today.

The argument has been heating up on both sides of the debate on whether or not the Scouts should drop the national ban, which would effectively mean individual scout troops could decide on whether to be inclusive of gay members or not.

Religious opposition to the lifting of the ban noted that out of 2.7 million members across the US, around 70% of Boy Scout groups are hosted by churches and other faith-based groups, including the Catholic and Mormon churches.

“The homosexual lobby is trying to get the Boy Scouts to change their policy — they’re constantly being attacked and bullied,” said Jonathan Saenz, of Texas Values, speaking to the Los Angeles Times. “A lot of people are concerned the Boy Scouts’ image will be tarnished.”

A synagogue in California, however, recently became the latest in a list of religious groups to reject the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy, described as “damaging”.

Not all LGBT rights advocates would be happy with a drop of the national ban, however. Brad Hankins of Scouts for Equality said it would be a bad outcome for a divide forming between inclusive and non-inclusive scout troops.

“We don’t want to see scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts. So the best solution would be to end discrimination outright,” he said.

The Boy Scouts have lost funding from several large corporate donors over the policy, including UPS, back in November, who had given over $150,000 (£95,000), Intel, another of the scouts’ largest donors, ceased funding back in September, and the Merck Foundation in December. 

President Barack Obama said on Sunday that he thought gay people should be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America, and that “nobody should be barred” from the experience of being a scout.

On Monday, a rally delivered a petition with 1.4 million signatures pushing for the Boy Scouts of America to drop the ban.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and LGBT activist said: “The Boy Scouts are a fundamental part of this nation’s moral bedrock and they are one of our great cultural institutions. We have trusted them to grow and develop our young men for over a century.

“They’re a big deal, and that is why this proposed change is so critically important,” he continued.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, however, said last week that he though the Boy Scouts of America shouldn’t remove the ban.

Earlier this week, the head of a Christian legal firm in the US said that the reason that the Boy Scouts of America may make moves towards dropping its ban on gay scouts was “spiritual pressure” from Satan.

Last week one US radio host said the scouts should “shut down” rather than allow gays in, and that these are signs of the “end times”, and another said that allowing gay scout masters would allow “gay activists” to “spread deviant sexuality”.

A father of two from Brooklyn, New York, recently started his own Boy Scouts troop, inclusive of gay members, and girls, to allow his son to be a member without having to accept the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy.

By Wednesday morning, the Boy Scouts of America Facebook page had more than 27,000 comments on the issue.

More: Americas, anti gay policy, Anti-gay, Boy Scouts, Boy Scouts of America, BSA, gay discrimination, Scouts, US

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