The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 2, 2013

Boy Scouts mull new gay policy: Local council says it will back national guidelines

JOHNSTOWN — Boy Scouts of America soon may no longer hold a universal position on whether homosexuals can be members or leaders.

The organization has strictly banned participation by openly gay individuals since its founding in 1910. Its ban was upheld by a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000 and reaffirmed by the Scouts as recently as last year. Earlier this week, though, the organization announced that it is re-examining the longstanding policy. An official change could come within the next few days.

BSA is considering an approach that would leave the decision to accept or ban homosexuals to the individual troops.

Locally, Cambria County Judge Norman A. Krumenacker III, a past president of the Boy Scouts Northeast region, feels the national organization is abdicating its responsibility by not making a universal policy one way or another.

“They should not wash their hands of a tough decision. ... If we’re going to develop leaders to make tough decisions, they should make tough decisions,” Krumenacker said.

He feels a splintered policy could harm Scouting.

“I think it would be detrimental for the Boy Scouts not to speak with one voice,” said Krumenacker. “This is a very delicate question. It is one that needs addressed, and I think it’s long overdue to be addressed. It needs to come from the BSA, not the individual unit level.”

The Laurel Highlands Council, which covers much of southwestern Pennsylvania, including Cambria, Somerset, Westmoreland and Bedford counties, plans to support whatever policy is set on the national level.

Sponsors, such as religious, civic or educational organizations, would help make decisions concerning homosexual participation. “The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” said Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith in a statement.

Nearly 70 percent of the nation’s 110,000 Scouting units are chartered by religious organizations.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Roman Catholic Church are two of the largest sponsors, serving approximately 420,000 and 280,000 Scouts, respectively.

“The Church is aware that BSA is contemplating a change in its leadership policy,” said Latter-day Saints spokesman Michael Purdy. “However, BSA has not yet made any such change. Until we are formally notified that it has done so, it would be inappropriate for the Church to comment.”

Gay advocacy groups have opposed the exclusion for years.

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, the heterosexual son of lesbian parents, collected more than 275,000 signatures on a petition to lift the ban. Several organizations, including the Intel Foundation and Merck Co. Foundation, ceased providing financial support to BSA because of the policy.

Philip Bayush, a representative of the Keystone Alliance, a

Johnstown-based LGBT support group, called the possible change “a step in the right direction.”

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