The Washington Post

Boy Scouts set to end gay ban for youth, not adults

The Boy Scouts of America are calling for an end to their ban on homosexual members, while maintaining the ban for adult leaders.

Oliver Tessier, left, holds a sign as he protests with others for equality within Boy Scouts of America  in Bethesda on Thursday. His son, Pascal Tessier, was also at the demonstration. Pascal is a scout and is gay. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

The organization is proposing a resolution stating that "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." The change still must be approved by the group's roughly 1,400 national council members at a meeting the week of May 20.

The shift comes after a review of the long-standing policy that began in February, with surveys of adult members, parents, alumni, teens, donors, religious partners and scouting leaders. Since the Boy Scouts announced in January that they would reconsider the ban, both supporters and opponents of the ban have been lobbying leadership aggressively.

"While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community, and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting," the organization said in a statement. According to the group's review, a majority of adults in the organization's community still support the ban. However, parents under 50 oppose it. So do teens both inside and outside the Boy Scouts. Slightly less than half of parents of current scouts support it.

The group originally considered a compromise that would let local scouting organizations decide their own policies on homosexuals. The study found that idea generally unpopular.

Under the new resolution, the Boy Scouts will continue to bar adult leaders "who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA."

Religious chartered organizations, which run the majority of Boy Scout units, told the national group that they were particularly concerned with allowing gay adult leaders and that including both gay youths and adults could cost the organization over 100,000  members.

There are about 2.7 million youth members of the Boy Scouts and about 1 million adult leaders. About 70 percent of units are chartered by faith-based organizations, with the Mormon church leading the most groups.

Despite disagreement about the ban, parents, teens and the scouting community at large agreed that an openly gay youth should not be denied an Eagle Scout award because of his sexual orientation. A 16-year-old gay scout from California, Ryan Andresen, was denied the Eagle Scout badge last year and has been held up by opponents as an example of the current policy's injustice. A lesbian mother also became a national figure last year when she was removed from her position as den mother in a Cub Scout troop.

The scouts consulted with experts on youth protection and child sexual abuse prevention. They told the group that there was no evidence that homosexuality is a risk factor for abusing others, nor is there any evidence that homosexual adults have a negative effect on children.

Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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