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Boy Scouts of America to drop ban on gay Scouts

| Thursday, May 23, 2013, 6:24 p.m.
Terri Hall of San Antonio and her son, Nathaniel, 8, protest near where the Boy Scouts of America is holding its annual meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, in Grapevine, Texas. Delegates to the meeting are expected to address a proposal to allow gay Scouts into the organization.
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Dave Rice, founder of the pro-gay group Scouting for All in 1993, was subsequently kicked out of Boy Scouts after 59 years of involvement. He wears a neckerchief embroidered with the Inclusive Scouting Award while talking with supporters at the Equal Scouting Summit in Grapevine, Texas, on Thursday, May 23, 2013. The Boy Scouts of America voted to remove its 103-year-old ban on openly gay Scouts.

Raymond Weaver wonders whether his Boy Scout troop will shrink in numbers.

The Boy Scouts of America on Thursday dropped a century-old ban on openly gay boys from participating in Scouting activities. At least one parent of a Scout in Weaver's troop has been vocal about his opposition to the change in the nation's leading youth organization.

“I have no problem with it,” said Weaver, 63, of Whitehall. “I don't know what will happen. We may have phone calls by next week from a half-dozen people saying my child will not be participating.”

Of the 1,400 Boy Scout leaders who voted on whether to allow gay Scouts, more than 60 percent cast ballots in favor of the change during the organization's annual meeting at a conference center not far from BSA headquarters in suburban Dallas. Gay adults will remain barred from serving as Scout leaders.

“They should have kept it all the way around,” Bryan Gardner, who leads Troop 4 at Homestead Park Methodist Church in Munhall, said. “They are just bowing to pressure.”

When Gardner, 55, of Munhall met with parents of Scouts in his troop to discuss it, “they weren't crazy about it,” he said. He worries some troops could run into problems with the churches that charter and host them.

Of the more than 100,000 Scouting units in the United States, 70 percent are chartered by religious institutions. Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Hill District charters Troop 59.

“I don't think it changes anything,” said Calvin Bates, a deacon at the church. “We'll continue to have Troop 59 here at the church.”

Gary Roney, director of the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said the church would study the decision and wait for direction from the bishops. He doubted any change in the membership policy would change the church's relationship with Scouting.

Some of the Boy Scouts' largest sponsors are relatively conservative denominations that have previously supported the broad ban — notably the Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Southern Baptist churches.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in April that it was satisfied with the proposal, and the National Catholic Committee on Scouting did not oppose it.

The BSA could also be hurt financially. Many Scout units in conservative areas feared their local donors would stop giving if the ban on gay youths were lifted, while many major corporate donors were likely to withhold donations if the ban had remained.

The BSA's youth membership is about 2.6 million. It has about 1 million adult leaders and volunteers.

Mike Surbaugh, Scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America's Laurel Highlands Council covering Western Pennsylvania, was at the organization's meeting in Texas but did not have an immediate reaction to the vote. In an email, Surbaugh stated that the board and council leadership will meet next week.

“We're going to continue to serve youth. That's our answer,” said Jack Waite, assistant Scout executive for the Westmoreland-Fayette Council of Boy Scouts.

For Frank Glazer, the BSA's decision did not go far enough. Glazer, 63, of Collier is the membership director for the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Eagle Scout Association, a Boy Scout alumni association, and he wanted the ban on gay Scout leaders dropped as well.

“It's kind of a trade-off. We'll allow this, but we won't allow that,” he said. “The only decision that they are basing it on is the insane notion in their minds that gay and pedophilia are the same thing when they're not.”

Gay rights advocates in the Pittsburgh area celebrated the Boy Scouts' decision.

“I think this is another monumental moment for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights movement,” said Gary Van Horn, board president of the Delta Foundation, a pro-gay organization in Pittsburgh. “I think the country is changing. The hearts and minds are changing.”

Weaver, whose Troop 210 meets in Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Whitehall, is glad Scouting is changing.

“Scouting has to change with it, or it won't exist anymore,” he said.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at aaupperlee@tribweb.com or 412-320-7986. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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