By Mark Abrams, Diana Rocco
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to allow openly gay members.
A local man who pressed the Cradle of Liberty Boy Scouts Council in Philadelphia in recent years to reject national BSA policy barring gays in the organization says the national stance still may generate discontent.
Duane Perry is an Eagle Scout and was one of those involved in the challenge to the Philadelphia area Boy Scout Council’s enforcement of the national organization’s ban on gays.
Perry supported evicting the Scouts from a city-owned building because of what he called their discriminatory policy.
Perry says he’s encouraged by the vote to change the national BSA stance.
“Well, I think it’s a good move forward because it will allow gay youth to stay in Scouting and join Scouting,” said Perry. “The problem is that it leaves discrimination in place for adults as well as employees.”
New Jersey Assistant Troop Master Tom Ferrari leads a troop of 45. He turned in his Eagle badge last Fall in protest over the organization’s ban on gays.
“A big part of the man I am today is because of what I learned in Scouting,” said Ferrari.
“They’re not accepted a lot of times in school, they can’t join the clubs. If they try to play sports they’re teased a lot of times. And here we are, this organization that is supposed to help them become better leaders and telling them no, I’m sorry, you’re not good enough for us,” said Ferrari.
In opposition, the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, a statewide traditional values group, say they’re against the move they believe was for financial reasons.
“The Boy Scouts are trying to appease homosexual activists who want to remake the largest youth organization in the nation. Allowing youth who identify as homosexual in as members will not oppose these activists, they don’t want any blocks on homosexuals leaders either. The Scouts have taken the first step into dismantling the organization,” commented Diane Gramley, president of the AFA of PA in a statement released Thursday.
Ferrari says the policy hasn’t gone far enough.
“I want gay leaders to be involved. Looking back on this in five, 10 years, people are going to be like what was the big deal?” said Ferrari.
Perry says the policy still bans anyone over the age of 18 who is openly gay to be part of the Boy Scouts of America.
He suspects, however, that policy eventually will be abandoned and the BSA will follow the lead of the Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters in dropping any policies that discriminate.
The Boy Scouts of America posted a statement on their website on Thursday:
“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.
“Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization’s long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting’s mission. 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.
“Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The 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. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.
“This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.
“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.
“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”