Boy Scouts consider ending national ban on gay members, leaders - KMSP-TV

Boy Scouts of America considers ending national ban on gay members, leaders

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Infographic by Scouts for Equality Infographic by Scouts for Equality

The Boy Scouts of America is considering an end to its nationwide ban on admitting gay scouts and leaders, the organization announced Monday.

GLAAD, a nationwide LGBT media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, said a nearly year-long campaign and petitions signed by more than 1.2 million people via Change.org helped precipitate the move.

Spokesman Deron Smith explained that BSA leaders are discussing removing membership restrictions pertaining to sexual orientation, allowing chartered groups to accept members and leaders as they see fit.

"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue," Smith said. "The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents."

Zach Walls, an Eagle Scout whose speech on marriage equality before the Iowa House of Representatives spread virally online, welcomed the policy change and said he looks forward to helping chartered organizations end exclusion.

"This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction," said Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality.

The website for the BSA lists over 300 local councils across the country, and Scouts for Equality reported that 11 -- which serve more than 260,000 scouts -- are already opposing the current ban.

The GLAAD campaign began in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell was removed from her 7-year-old's Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Her petition on Change.org gathered more than 330,000 signatures, and a peaceful march was held to end the ban.

By the middle of May, several celebrities had expressed support for Tyrrell. By the end of the month, Wahls delivered more than 275,000 signatures to the BSA's national annual meeting.

By summer, TV and Internet icon George Takei had joined Tyrrell in a show of support for ending the ban during the pride parade in New York City. In mid-July, BSA announced a two-year review of the ban and reaffirmed its policy

Yet, a day after the ban was affirmed by the organization, current board member Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, announced his opposition to the ban. A second petition was filed by Wahls to ask the BSA to consider letting executive board members vote to change the policy.

On the day after the announcement that the ban would be maintained, Minnesota's largest council -- the Northern Star -- announced that it would defy the nationwide policy and continue to welcome gay members. The BSA said it would work with the council to "clarify" the policy.

Since then, over 100 Eagle Scouts across the country have returned their badges in protest of the ban, which also earned the attention of the presidential candidates in 2012. Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney said they oppose the ban.

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