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Boy Scouts: Some Californians regret delay in deciding on gay ban

February 6, 2013 | 12:05 pm

Some Southern Californians involved with Boy Scout troops expressed disappointment Wednesday that the Boy Scouts of America had put off a decision on whether to lift a long-standing ban on gay members. 

In announcing the postponement, the national organization said the issue of sexual orientation was too complex and needed more time for study.

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement announcing the delay.

“To that end, the executive board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards,” Smith said.

The approximately 1,400 voting members of the organization's national council will take action on the resulting resolution at a meeting in May in Grapevine, Texas, he said.

But in California some Scout leaders and members sought more decisive action to end the ban.  

Cheyton Jain, 18, was a longtime member of Santa Monica Troop 2, through which he became an Eagle Scout. The troop, he said, is known for -- and has received some criticism for -- its liberal stance on gay members, he said.

In 2000, the troop petitioned the national council to reconsider the ban on openly gay members and troop leaders. The troop is "very relaxed" in allowing gay members and the involvement of gay and lesbian parents, said Jain, now a student at San Francisco State University.

"Santa Monica is very liberal," he said. But when the troop travels out of state, "it's extremely clear that that rule is a huge tenet for them," he said of the ban on gays. "It's definitely a total culture shock when you go out of California."

Jain said he was not surprised a national decision on the issue had been delayed.

"This is a huge step for the BSA in the first place to even consider changing that rule because that's been in place since the beginning," he said. "With pressure coming from Obama, I think they're coming to their senses."

Sarah Hronsky, senior rabbi of Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, said the temple has sponsored a Boy Scout troop since the mid-1990s.

Although conservative groups that support the ban have warned of a backlash if it is lifted –- noting that 70% of troops are sponsored by religious organizations –- Hronsky said that many religious institutions are open to the GLBT community.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t make a decision, but I’m very hopeful that even with this delay, the Boy Scouts will begin to open themselves to the GLBT community,” she said. “I believe our region is ready for this change.”

Though she acknowledged that the “difficulty lies in the fact that regionally there are different sentiments,” she said mounting pressure may have expedited action.

“There’s a lot to weigh for them,” she said.  

The issue was put on the agenda for the current executive board meeting in Irving, Texas, at a time of declining Scout membership, questions by corporate sponsors and public pressure from activists who oppose the ban.

Med Dyer is an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 676 in San Diego. Two of his sons have completed the program, and his 12-year-old joined the Boy Scouts last year.

“I’d love to say that senior management is understanding this,” he said. “But I feel like the reason they’re changing this is because of pressure coming outside of BSA.”

Dyer defended the Boy Scouts as a “great program,” but said that its stance on gay members and atheist members was “out of touch with reality.”

“We’ve made it clear to our kids that we don’t agree with either of those two stances and made it clear to our troop that we don’t agree,” he said. “It concerns me.”

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-- Matt Stevens and Hailey Branson-Potts

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