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Boy Scouts proposing to lift gay ban for youth

NEW YORK -- Under pressure over its long-standing ban on gays, the Boys Scouts of America is proposing to lift the ban for youth members but continue to exclude gays as adult leaders.

The Scouts announced Friday that the proposal would be submitted to the roughly 1,400 voting members of its National Council at a meeting in Texas the week of May 20.

Gay-rights groups have demanded a complete lifting of the ban, while some churches and conservative groups want it maintained in its entirety, raising the likelihood that the new proposal will draw continued criticism from both sides.

Indeed, the BSA, in making its announcement, estimated that easing the ban on gay adults could cause widespread defections that cost the organization 100,000 to 350,000 members.

In January, the BSA said it was considering a plan to give local Scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them.

On Friday, the BSA said it changed course in part because of surveys sent out starting in February to about 1 million members of the Scouting community.

The review, said a BSA statement, "created an outpouring of feedback" from 200,000 respondents, some supporting the exclusion policy and others favoring a change.

"While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting," the statement said.

West Virginia's Buckskin Council of the Boy Scouts of America held a local meeting to give its leaders, parents of members and donors a chance to discuss the proposed acceptance of openly gay members last month. Fellow councils around the nation held similar meetings.

Jeff Purdy, the scout executive for the Buckskin Council said he and the council volunteer leadership took the input form volunteer leaders and crafted a membership impact statement they felt best represented the views of local stakeholders, just as the other 200-plus Boy Scout councils, and submitted it to the national organization.

"It will become a national policy, so we are obligation to follow national policy," Purdy said. "Our focus is and will continue to be providing local scouts with the best local program possible."

As a result, the BSA's Executive Committee drafted a resolution proposing to remove the ban on gay youth while keeping it for all adult leaders.

"The proposed resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," the statement said.

Staff writer Candace Nelson contributed to this report.


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