Boy Scouts of America to vote on lifting ban of gay Scouts and leaders

Published: Monday, Jan. 28 2013 4:30 p.m. MST

Eagle Scouts are honored at the Boy Scouts of America Centennial Court of Honor 2010 at the Stadium of Fire at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, on July 3, 2010.

Matt Gillis, Deseret News

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The board of directors of the Boy Scouts of America will vote next week on a resolution that would effectively end its national policy prohibiting homosexuals from participating as Scouts or as Scout leaders.

“A resolution will be put forth by the national board a week from Wednesday,” said Kay Godfrey, director of public relations for the BSA’s Great Salt Lake Council. “We won’t know until then how it will affect Scouting as we’ve known it.”

Pete Williams, justice correspondent for NBC News, broke the story Monday morning, reporting that BSA national leaders are “actively considering an end to its decades-long policy of banning gay Scouts or Scout leaders.”

According to Williams, the new policy “would eliminate the ban from the national organization’s rules, leaving local sponsoring organizations free to decide for themselves whether to admit gay Scouts.”

"The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents," Smith told BSA spokesman Deron Smith told USA Today. "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."

In other words, different Scout troops in the same community could have different policies regarding homosexuals, in which case Smith said parents “would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families.”

Although Godfrey was not aware of the proposal until Monday morning, he said “you have to figure they’ve done their homework in talking to the powers that be in all of the sponsoring institutions.”

“I can’t imagine that they are blindly moving forward with this,” Godfrey said, adding that national organization representatives told local council officials during a conference call early Monday afternoon they have contacted sponsoring institutions, which have indicated they understand the pressure BSA is under on this issue.

Asked if he expects the measure to pass when it is voted upon next week, Godfrey would only say that during the conference call it was indicated that support among national board members “is not unanimous.”

Godfrey, who is retiring in February after 35 years as a professional Scouter, said he believes the policy change would “affect Scouting in the state of Utah considerably.”

“We won’t know how much it will change until it is announced and the sponsoring organizations have a chance to react,” he said. “One way or the other, the decision is going to be controversial.”

Speaking for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the single largest organizational sponsor of Scouting in Utah and one of the largest in the United States, Michael Purdy said that “the church is aware that the BSA is contemplating a change in its leadership policy.”

“However,” Purdy continued, “BSA has not yet made any such change. Until we are formally notified that it has done so, it would be inappropriate for the church to comment.”

An official at the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, another large sponsor of Scouting in Utah, also indicated that “it would be inappropriate to comment given the speculative nature of the report.”

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