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Boy Scouts Expected To Reconsider Ban on Gay Members, Leaders

A Swampscott man is among those who, in protest, have returned Eagle Scout badges to the Boy Scouts of America. Meanwhile the organization could reverse its decades-old ban on allowing homosexual members and leaders as early as the coming week.

Just seven months after the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its decades-old ban on admitting gay members and leaders, the organization said it could reverse that policy as early as next week.

Scout officials announced last Monday that the organization is considering amending its policy against homosexual participation in favor of allowing local troops to decide on their own, NBC News reports.

If the policy change is approved at the national executive board meeting, which starts Monday in Irving, Texas, the ban would be eliminated from the scout's rules.

"The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts’ national organization told NBC News on Monday.

On Saturday Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said the Boy Scouts of America should not soften its policy barring gay members, "and dismissed the idea of bending the organization to the whims of 'popular culture,'” according to the New York Times.

Perry, an Eagle Scout, spoke at the Texas Scouts’ 64th annual Report to State. 

While the New York times reported earlier that scout officials offered no timeline on making the formal decision, most other media outlets are anticipating a decision after discussion on the issue at next week's national executive board meeting.

Activists on both sides of the issue spoke out on Monday on the unintended consequences of leaving the decision on whether or not to allow gays up to individual scouting troops. The New York Times reported that supporters of the ban feared the Boy Scouts' softened approach could undermine the organization's legacy of producing great, moral leaders. Equality activists worried the piecemeal approach would encourage discrimination in some troops.

The battle to end the ban on gay members and leaders in the Boy Scouts began decades ago, but recently regained momentum as a result of public and private backlash when the scouts reaffirmed their policy position in 2012. That same policy endured a Supreme Court trial in 2000.

Matt Hallion of Swampscott was among 150 Eagle Scouts who mailed back their awards to the Boy Scouts as of Aug. 26, 2012. Eagle badges and medals are being sent back to the Boy Scouts to protest its reaffirmation of its policy to not grant membership to open gays, according to a boston.com article.

According to a national blog chronicling the protests, about 150 Eagle Scouts have mailed back their awards as of Aug. 26.

The Boy Scouts of America have confirmed that medals and badges have been returned, said the boston.com piece.

“Each year more than 50,000 young men earn the rank of Eagle Scout, totaling to over 2 million,” said Boy Scouts national spokesman Deron Smith. “We don’t have an exact count of medals returned recently, but we have received a few. Although we are disappointed to learn of anyone who feels compelled to return his Eagle medal, we respect their right to express an opinion.”

Below is part of a note from Matt and a letter he sent to the Boy Scouts of America. His wife, Karen, shared the note and letter with us last year on our Facebook Page:

"If you know me at all, you know that I've struggled with my beliefs and where they clash with the official stance of the BSA.  They reaffirmed their comittment to their membership policies a few weeks ago.  It really disappointed me and made me think long and hard about where I stand on this and I agonized over it.  I spent days thinking about it and struggling with it, but in the end, I decided I needed to send my Eagle Badge back to them." 

What's your opinion on allowing gay members and leaders in the Boy Scouts? Do you think Boy Scouts' headquarters should issue a more definitive policy change allowing homosexuals? What will be the repercussions of allowing individual units to ban or allow gays? Tell us in the comments below.

Mark Chulsky February 03, 2013 at 04:18 PM
I don't think I can dictate policies to private groups, but I'd be curious to know how many Boy/Girl Scouts would return their badges when the policy changes.
Brittany Correa February 03, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Equality is key.
Scott Smith February 04, 2013 at 01:54 AM
My grandfather, an eagle scout, said he will return his eagle if this is allowed. I think it will cause a slow painful death to the scouting program. Mt son will get his eagle this summer, his brother will be 4 years behind him. I don't think the scouting program will be here for my grandchildren. We need only to look at the catholic church to see what is going to happen. The program will be bankrupted from the molestation lawsuits.

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