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Boy Scouts considering changing no-gays policy

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Jan 28 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 29 2013 04:43:04 AM CST

The Boy Scouts ban on homosexuals may be lifted.

READING, Pa. -

The Boy Scouts ban on homosexuals may be lifted. Next week, the national board is meeting to discuss whether local troops should have the freedom to make their own decisions when it comes to gay scouts and leaders.

An official from Berks County said it's too early to say what exactly will happen.

"The new policy that is being talked about is to do away with the national policy and let our units, our packs and troops and venture crews to really set their own membership standards," said Bill Garrett, executive director, the Hawk Mountain Council.

Garrett said the Hawk Mountain Council represents about 8,000 young people.

"Until everything is finalized," said Garrett, "We remain focused, as do I personally remain focused, on helping the youth of our community."

The possible change to scout policy comes after years of protests. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the scouts right to exclude gays.

More recently, a local troop in Ohio took criticism when it forced out a lesbian mom from being a den leader.

Another troop in California faced criticism when it did not allow a gay teen to become an Eagle Scout after completing all the work necessary.

But Garrett said something like that hasn't come up in Berks or Schuylkill counties.

"During my time absolutely not. For the years prior as far I can tell no one's been removed because of the issue, no one has been fired," said Garrett, "We've never asked anyone their sexual orientation on an application or otherwise. It doesn't really become an issue and it hasn't been an issue until it gets in the way of our mission, it gets in the way of serving young people."

Defenders of the policy within the scouts include religious groups that sponsor many of the units.

Garrett declined to comment on the policy or to react to the possible change.

The Boy Scouts of America has a scheduled meeting on February 6th. An announcement could be made at that time.