- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Boy Scouts have proposed a new policy that would not discriminate against openly gay boys who want to join the organization.
About 1,400 representatives from Boy Scouts of America councils in the country will convene at a special meeting next month in Texas where they will vote on the proposal.
Aaron Chusid, the communication director for the National Capital Area Council that includes troops in St. Mary’s County, said the council would send 10 voting representatives to the meeting in May. He declined to say how those members would be selected.
“They have a responsibility to represent the point of view of their council,” he said of the voters.
When asked what that point of view is, Chusid said, “Our position is that we support the policy of the national organization.”
The proposed new policy states that no youth may be denied membership on the basis of sexual orientation or preference. The Scouting association has also said it would keep its policy in place disallowing gays or lesbians from serving as troop leaders.
“We will change what our council is doing to match” any new policy if approved, Chusid said.
The current policy does not inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members. However, the Boy Scouts do not grant membership to individuals “who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts’ policy was recognized as a First Amendment right. The organization continued to examine the issue, even after the favorable court decision.
“We believe the BSA can no longer sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, controversial, and unresolved societal issue,” Wayne Perry, the national president of the Boy Scouts, said in a recent letter to voting members. “We believe good people can disagree and still work together to accomplish great things for youth.”
Wes Haynes, director of the two districts overseeing Southern Maryland, said that nearly 100 Scouts earn Eagle Scout status a year from the region and the members put in thousands of hours of volunteer service in the community.
“Regardless of what happens in May, we’ll continue to do these things,” Haynes wrote in an email. “The Boy Scouts is a program about developing young people with life skills and good character.”
Bill Caplins of Park Hall has been involved in Scouting for more than five decades. “I’ve never seen it as an issue. I’m not aware of anyone locally who has been denied” an Eagle Scout award because they were gay, Caplins said.
Still, he acknowledged the policy could have an impact on an individual at some time who was gay and trying to earn his Eagle Scout award. Caplins said he has not heard much discussion about the issue locally.
“It really has almost no impact on the local unit,” he said of the proposed change. “It doesn’t affect the adults, which is what most people were concerned about.”
The national organization is not proposing any change to the current policy related to troop leaders, so adults who are gay or lesbian would still be ineligible nationally.
Chusid said the national organization held a big “listening session” to hear from Scouts, Scouting leaders and the general public about their views of the issue. “It was a very broad initiative,” he said.
The results of that are available on the organization’s website.
The local council also collected opinions of Scouts, individuals and groups associated with local troops. That information will not be shared with the public, Chusid said, but will be passed to the 10 voters representing the National Capital Area Council.
Chusid said the local opinions showed a majority of members will stay involved with the Scouting program regardless of the outcome of the policy proposal to lift the ban on gay members.
Chusid said that groups that host Scout troops, including churches that have religious views against homosexuality, could weigh in on the issue. “I think they had a very strong voice in the listening phase, and they should,” he said.
He said that some Boy Scout troops are formed specifically by a certain denomination and meet at houses of worship.
According to the organization, a majority of adults in the Scouting community support the BSA’s current policy of excluding open and avowed homosexuals, although younger parents and teens tend to oppose the policy.
Attitudes and opinions related to gay and lesbian relationships have changed rapidly over the past few years, the organization said, especially among parents younger than 50. Parents in three of four Boy Scout Association regions oppose the current membership policy.