Report: Boy Scouts moving to allow gay scouts, leaders

Cradle of Liberty Council's headquarters on the Ben Franklin Parkway
Cradle of Liberty Council's headquarters on the Ben Franklin Parkway (STAFF)
Posted: January 29, 2013

The Boy Scouts of America are considering retracting its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders, according to several reports.

The Boy Scouts are "discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation," Deron Smith, director of public relations for the Boy Scouts of America, told CNN.

A report on NBCNews.com, which quoted unnamed scouting officials, said that if the national board of directors drops the ban, local scout councils will be free to determine if they will admit gay scouts.

Admitting gay scouts and permitting gay leaders would have particular resonance in the Philadelphia area. The local scout organization, the Cradle of Liberty Council, sued the City of Philadelphia in 2008 after the city threatened to evict them from their city-owned building the group had occupied since 1928 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The city maintained that any organization that discriminated against any group could not receive municipal benefits.

Though Cradle of Liberty had a non-discrimination policy, the national organization threatened to dissolve the Philadelphia group if they didn't hew the line of forbidding "avowed homosexuals."

The suit went to trial in 2010, and the jury sided with Cradle of Liberty and required the city to pay $877,000 of the council's legal fees.

Though the scouts are considering rescinding the ban, it is far from certain it will go through. The decision must be approved by the Boy Scout's national board of directors, which may vote on it as soon as next week.

A spokeswoman for the Cradle of Liberty Council said it was too early to comment on the news reports.

"We have yet to talk with our client, we are just seeing the news stories as well," she said.

According to the NBC News report, two corporate CEOs on BSA's national board, have said they are working to end the ban. One of those CEOs is next in line to be the organization's national chairman.

Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News and a Philly.com contributor, said he had lost patience with the Boy Scouts.

"Non-discrimination is a hallmark of liberty. . . and simply put, the Boy Scouts have not reached that honorable bar," Segal said.

"This voice is echoed in many cities across the nation," he continued. "The question is not if they will change their policies, but how soon can they change to lessen the damage they have brought on themselves and on their reputation."


Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796, @samwoodiii or samwood@phillynews.com.

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