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Boy Scouts set to vote on allowing gay adult leaders

TNS Regional News • Jul 28, 2015 at 3:07 PM

The Boy Scouts of America is expected to end its blanket ban on gay adult leaders Monday.

The Irving, Texas-based organization’s national executive board is scheduled to ratify a resolution to allow individual Scout units to set their own policies for choosing leaders.

Churches sponsor a large majority of troops, and the board’s move is intended to allow them to follow their own beliefs.

The Boy Scouts’ executive committee unanimously approved the resolution earlier this month after a speech by the organization’s president, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement,” he said.

The Boy Scouts said in a written statement Sunday that the change will allow the organization to focus on goals that unite its participants.

“This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families,” the statement said.

Pat Currie, chief executive officer of the Circle Ten Council, which serves central north Texas, said he preferred to wait to comment until after Monday’s vote.

But Jack Hall of Sherman didn’t hesitate. He hopes the resolution passes.

He earned the rank of Eagle Scout with a leader he admired for his dedication to his troop. About 10 years later, that leader was barred from the Scouts because he was gay.

“I’m living proof that gays can make good Scout leaders,” said Hall, who turns 84 in August.

He added that he’s sure he wasn’t the only Scout to have a gay leader.

Some who opposed the organization’s earlier decision to accept gay youths as Scouts started an alternative organization called Trail Life USA. The group’s board chairman, John Stemberger, is an Eagle Scout and former Scout master.

“Other than my faith and family, nothing has impacted my life more than the Boy Scouts of America,” Stemberger said in an email. “On May 23, 2013, in Grapevine when I was at the BSA convention and the initial decision was made, for me it felt like part of America died.”

At that convention, the Boy Scouts’ decision did not extend to adult leaders.

Stemberger, an Orlando, Fla., lawyer, is focusing on the legal ramifications of the newest ruling.

In a written statement, he said, “This change in membership policy places the churches and religious institutions who sponsor BSA troops at greater legal risk.”

Christopher Coffman of Irving said that though the resolution is not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction.

He said it eliminates the mixed signals of accepting gay youths but not gay adult leaders.

“It’s been hard for me, as an Eagle Scout, to get involved as a leader since finishing college, given the BSA’s discriminatory practices,” Coffman said. “While this change will drive some away, I imagine there will be many others, like me, who see it as a sign that Scouting can be a positive experience for everyone.”

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By Deborah Fleck - The Dallas Morning News (TNS)

©2015 The Dallas Morning News

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