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May 24, 2013

Little local reaction to Scouts’ gay vote

JOHNSTOWN — Thursday’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America to open their ranks to openly gay boys for the first time may have rocked the national council’s annual conference in Grapevine, Texas, but local Scout leaders say there has been little reaction here.

The fiercely contested compromise left the BSA’s longstanding ban on gay adults remain in force, leaving both liberal and conservative groups unsatisfied.

Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal drafted by the governing executive committee. The policy change will take effect Jan. 1.

Many liberal Scout leaders – as well as gay rights groups – plan to continue pressing for an end to that exclusion even though the BSA’s top officials aren’t ready for that step.

Meanwhile, many conservatives within the Scouts are distraught at the outcome of the vote and some are threatening to defect. A meeting is planned for next month to discuss the formation of a new organization for boys.

The scoutmaster for Troop 100 at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Township expects little change in the active troop’s functions.

“We have never had the issue come up,” Scoutmaster Ronald Newsom said. “We certainly never turned anybody away. We just don’t talk about it.”

Newsom has been a Scout leader for more than 20 years, bringing his five sons through the program.

He said he was not contacted Friday by any of his members or parents in response to the National Council’s vote.

“I expect we are just going to continue with our program, just like we always have,” he said.

Keith Barclay, chairman of the Laurel Highlands Council’s Keystone District, said the council’s satellite office in Ebensburg did not receive much feedback early Friday.

“As far as I know,  there has not been any,” Barclay said Friday, adding that the office was quiet when he was there earlier in the day.

“We expected a lot of calls coming in reaction to the decision, voicing their opinions, for and against.”

A request for an update on reaction received at the Ebensburg satellite Friday was referred the council office in Pittsburgh, where Amy Franz declined to comment.

“I am going to have to refer you to our national office,” she said.

A call to the national office was not immediately returned Friday.

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