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W.Va. Boy Scout leaders eyeing policy change

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia's Buckskin Council of the Boy Scouts of America will hold a local meeting to give its leaders, parents of members and donors a chance to discuss the proposed acceptance of openly gay members.

Jeff Purdy, the scout executive for the Buckskin Council, said the meeting is open only to registered scout leaders, parents of registered youth members and financial donors of the Buckskin Council.

All those attending must have reservations, and no walk-ins will be permitted.

"We're just going to have a discussion about what those stakeholders perceive will be the impact locally if there was a leadership change at the national level," Purdy said.

"It's not a discussion whether it's right or wrong - it's just to see what people perceive that to affect us locally, in scholarship, funding, the ability to maintain relationships with charting organizations."

The Boy Scouts of America has had a longstanding policy against allowing openly gay members.

Carly Rae Jepsen, the Canadian pop singer, canceled her scheduled performance at the national Boy Scouts of America Jamboree last week because of the organization's exclusion of gays. The rock band Train, which also is to appear at the Jamboree, has asked the Boy Scouts of America to reconsider its policy.

The Jamboree will be held in July at its new permanent location at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County. It is expected to draw more than 45,000 scouts and adults to West Virginia.

"Nationally, every Boy Scout council has been asked to have this discussion with local stakeholders, and they've allowed the local council to determine how best to do that," Purdy said.

"Right now, this is strictly a meeting to review the possible impact and implications of how a change in leadership may or may not affect scouting in our area. This is a Buckskin Council issue we're trying to gauge."

Additional stakeholders, including people with entities that sponsor scout units, will be contacted with questionnaires to assess their positions.

After the council compiles the thoughts expressed on the subject, the findings will be sent to the regional and national organizations.

Adam Briskin-Limehouse, the campaign manager for Fairness WV, a civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, said Boy Scouts are a private organization and the outcome is their choice.

"The Boy Scouts do good work. I think it is unfortunate that they choose to limit it. It's not our place to support or not support, but the reality is, there are gay Scouts," Briskin-Limehouse said.

"It is really, really sad that people are forced into a position of hiding who they are so they can take part in an organization that they love. If that were to change, it'd be great. It'd be great for them as Boy Scouts."

The national Boy Scouts organization is surveying stakeholders in advance of the planned May vote of its national council on whether to end or ease its policy of excluding gay Scouts and leaders, the Associated Press reported earlier this week.

The BSA's national executive board delayed a decision expected in early February until the annual meeting of roughly 1,400 members in May in Grapevine, Texas, because, it said, "the complexity" of the issue necessitated "more deliberate review."

"The BSA is committed to dialogue on the topic of its membership standards policy, within the Scouting family at the local and national levels," BSA spokesman Deron Smith told The Denver Post in an e-mailed response to a request for interview.

BSA committees and leaders are in a "listening phase," Smith said, which includes surveying "a variety of key stakeholders."

The BSA distributes a survey called "The Voice of the Scout" twice a year. It goes out to all leaders, parents and youth over 14 years of age. The BSA used this regularly scheduled survey to add questions about the membership standards policy, but only to those surveys going to adults, Smith said.

The survey asks to what extent the stakeholder supports or opposes the current requirement troops prohibit open homosexuals from being Scouts or adult Scout leaders.

It further asks if certain scenarios are "totally acceptable, somewhat acceptable, neutral, somewhat or totally unacceptable."

The Charleston meeting will be 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Scout Service Center at 2829 Kanawha Blvd. East. If a large turnout is expected, the location will be adjusted. All participants must call 304-340-3663 in advance to make a reservation.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at Candace.Nelson@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her on Twitter www.twitter.com/Candace07


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