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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Boy Scouts end ban on gay leaders, with religious exemption
by Matt Simonette
2015-07-27

This article shared 3025 times since Mon Jul 27, 2015
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In a widely expected vote, the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted, on July 27, to lift its ban against gay scout leaders.

The vote came from the organization's executive board.

In a statement, the organization said, "Today, the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board ratified a resolution that removes the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees. The resolution is effective immediately. Of those present and voting, 79 percent voted in favor of the resolution.

"Chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders, and religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality. 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. This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own."

The shift also applies to BSA staff and officials, according to the New York Times.

Members of Scouts for Equality, a national organization leading the campaign to end discrimination in the BSA praised the vote.

"This vote marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Boy Scouts of America," said Eric Hetland, co-leader of Chicago Scouts for Equality and an Eagle Scout, in a statement. "While we still have some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults, we couldn't be more proud of the Boy Scouts for today's decision. We're excited about the future of Scouting."

"We're calling on gay Eagle Scouts, parents who are straight allies, non-profit organizations who support LGBT equality and anyone else who has walked away from the Boy Scouts to rejoin the fold," added Mary Anderson, co-leader of Oak Park Scouts for Equality and a lesbian mom. "Together, we can build a stronger, more inclusive Scouting movement."

Some LGBT rights advocates objected that troops under the auspices of religious institutions may still reject openly gay leaders should they wish, however.

"Today's vote by the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual adults to work and volunteer is a welcome step toward erasing a stain on this important organization," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. "But including an exemption for troops sponsored by religious organizations undermines and diminishes the historic nature of today's decision. Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts, period."

———

Here is the group's statement:

"Today, the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board ratified a resolution that removes the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees. The resolution is effective immediately. Of those present and voting, 79 percent voted in favor of the resolution.

"Chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders, and religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality. 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. This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.

"Moving forward, we will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth, helping them grow into good, strong citizens. By focusing on the goals that unite us, we are able to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve."

For additional information, see www.scoutingnewsroom.org .

Local members of Scouts for Equality—the national organization leading the campaign to end discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America—praised today's historic vote by the BSA's National executive board to end the organization's decades-old ban on gay adults.

"This vote marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Boy Scouts of America," said Eric Hetland, Co-leader of Chicago Scouts for Equality and an Eagle Scout. "While we still have some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults, we couldn't be more proud of the Boy Scouts for today's decision. We're excited about the future of Scouting."

Scouts for Equality—a group of current and former Boy Scouts members—has led the charge in campaigning for an end to the Boy Scouts of America's ban since 2012. In 2013, the BSA voted to end its ban on gay youth members, which many saw as a stepping-stone to full inclusion for the organization. Today, the work of this campaign was vindicated by an historic vote from the Boy Scouts of America.

"Tens of thousands of people came together because they wanted to build a better future for the Boy Scouts of America, and that future starts today," said Zach Wahls, the Executive Director of Scouts for Equality. "I couldn't be more proud of the tireless work of our members, volunteers, and staff over these last three years."

The resolution approved today ends the BSA's decades-old ban on gay adults while reaffirming the First Amendment right of Boy Scout units chartered ( i.e. legally sponsored ) by religious organizations to select troop leaders in accordance with their religious principles. In effect, Boy Scout units sponsored by churches will have the right to continue discriminating against gay adults on a troop-by-troop basis. Boy Scout units sponsored by secular organizations will not be allowed to discriminate.

"We're calling on gay Eagle Scouts, parents who are straight allies, non-profit organizations who support LGBT equality and anyone else who has walked away from the Boy Scouts to rejoin the fold," said Mary Anderson, Co-leader of Oak Park Scouts for Equality and a lesbian mom. "Together, we can build a stronger, more inclusive Scouting movement."

Jon W. Davidson, Legal Director and Eden/Rushing Chair at Lambda Legal, issued the following statement:

"Today's vote by the National Executive Committee to end the organization's decades-long policy of excluding openly gay and bisexual adults from membership in Scouting marks yet another milestone in the march toward LGBT equality in our nation. To be sure, the change will not free the BSA of sexual orientation discrimination altogether, however, as religious organizations that charter some 70 percent of local BSA units will still be permitted to discriminate in their selection of BSA unit leaders. Nonetheless, this is another repudiation of antigay discrimination by the Boy Scouts and another key moment for gay rights as openly gay and bisexual adults will be able to participate in Scouting, even if not in every troop or den.

"As a result of this reform, which is to take effect immediately, gay men, bisexuals and lesbians will be able to volunteer and participate in the BSA without having to hide their sexual orientation or their committed relationships; the organization will cease discriminating in employment based on sexual orientation; lesbian, gay and bisexual parents will no longer be excluded from being formally involved in Cub Scout dens and Boy Scout troops along with their sons; those previously excluded will be able to reapply for membership; and, the BSA, as an entity, will drop its policy that conveyed to all boys, regardless of their sexual orientation, that being gay was inconsistent with the Scout oath and law's principles of being "clean and morally straight." Today's vote will help thousands of boys enjoy scouting without the terrible message that being gay is an aspect of one's life that needs to be hidden in shame.

"The path to this moment has been a long and winding one, and there have been setbacks and detours along the way. Our community never gave up — and the power of continuing the fight for justice and equality is the most important lesson to be learned from today's development. The multiple lawsuits filed against the BSA revealed in very human terms the injustice — legal or not — of expelling qualified boys and men from America's largest youth group based on bias. They also, in effect, "outed" the BSA as a discriminatory organization and contributed to a steady decline in BSA membership that was one of the impetuses for today's vote. At Lambda Legal, we are proud of the historic legal battle we waged in Dale v. Boy Scouts of America. Although we ultimately narrowly lost that case before the U.S. Supreme Court, we won public support and understanding about the harms caused by the BSA's policy and practices of discrimination that paved the way for today's progress.

"One important way of judging a society is how it treats its young people. The story of how America's largest youth organization became more open and accepting is a remarkable story of incremental change that is not fully over, but that happened because many individuals relentlessly continued to press forward, using every tool they could muster."

The Human Rights Campaign responded to today's historic vote by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to end its blanket national ban on gay, lesbian and bisexual adults serving as employees and volunteers.

The new policy, which bars discrimination based on the sexual orientation of organization employees, still allows church-organized local units to consider an individual's sexual orientation when deciding who can volunteer and lead Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, and Venturing crews. HRC called on the organization to adopt a policy of full LGBT inclusion for both employees and volunteers.

"Today's vote by the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual adults to work and volunteer is a welcome step toward erasing a stain on this important organization," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "But including an exemption for troops sponsored by religious organizations undermines and diminishes the historic nature of today's decision. Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts, period."

"BSA officials should now demonstrate true leadership and begin the process of considering a full national policy of inclusion that does not allow discrimination against anyone because of who they are," Griffin said.

In 2013, HRC announced that beginning in 2016 its Corporate Equality Index, which rates Fortune 500 companies and the nation's top law firms on LGBT-inclusive policies and practices, would penalize corporations that give money to non-religious organizations that discriminate against the LGBT community. Companies from Walt Disney to UPS have led the charge to prevent money from flowing from corporate coffers to organizations that actively discriminate against the LGBT community.


This article shared 3025 times since Mon Jul 27, 2015
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