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Boy Scouts propose lifting gay youth ban

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Local gay youth soon could have the opportunity to join the Boy Scouts of America if the organization's proposal to lift the ban is passed.

A proposal announced Friday would lift the longstanding exclusion of gay Scouts, but a ban on adult leaders would continue.

"[If it passes] it will become a national policy, so we are obligated to follow national policy," said Jeff Purdy, the scout executive for the Buckskin Council, the Boy Scouts organization for this region. 

"Our focus is and will continue to be providing local scouts with the best local program possible."

Last month, the Buckskin Council of the Boy Scouts of America had 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 had similar meetings.

Purdy said he and the council volunteer leadership took the input from 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.

In the past few months, the organization held meetings across the country to consider how changing membership standards would affect the organization from those associated with the organization. The Boy Scouts also said it considered the change in part because of the surveys sent out in February to about 1 million members of the Scouting community.

In a statement released Friday, the Boy Scouts of America said, "This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change ... 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 national proposal will be submitted to about 1,400 voting members of the National Council at a meeting in Texas during the week of May 20.

Gay rights groups have called for a lifting of the ban, while others believe it should be maintained.

"More than 100 petitions garnering more than 1.6 million signatures have been launched by Scouts, Scout leaders, and Scouting families on Change.org, urging the Boy Scouts of America to vote to end its anti-gay policy," said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, senior campaign manager at Change.org, the largest petition platform, which is "empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see" according to their website. "... The question is, will the Boy Scouts listen to these voices calling for change when they vote this May?"

The policy has also garnered national attention.

Carly Rae Jepsen, the Canadian pop singer, canceled her scheduled performance at the national Boy Scouts of America Jamboree in West Virginia in March 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.

"America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation's children. Throughout this process, we work to stay focused on that which unites us-reaching and serving young people to help them grow into good, strong citizens. Our priority remains to continue accomplishing incredible things for young people and the communities we serve," the statement concluded.

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


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