Boy scouts may soon welcome gay leaders, youth members

Policy would allow sponsors of scout groups to decide how to address issue

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Boys Scouts of America is considering a dramatic change in its controversial policy of excluding gays as leaders and youth members.

Under the change being considered, the different religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout units would be able to decide for themselves how to address the issue -- either maintaining an exclusion of gays or opening up their membership.

The announcement of the possible change came Monday after years of protests over the policy, including petition campaigns that have prompted some corporations to suspend donations to the Boy Scouts.

Under the proposed change, said BSA spokesman Deron Smith, "the Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents."

On Monday, Channel 4's Adrienne Moore spoke with people on both sides of the issue to get their reaction.

"Any small victory to me means there's hope," said gay rights advocate Valerie Williams.

Williams calls the possible announcement a step in the right direction.

"Just the fact that it's on the table is encouraging and inspiring, that some people are realizing that equal rights is important, that it's a basic human right," said Williams.

According to jack sears with the North Florida Council of the Boy Scouts, "This is an internal national policy discussion, and no decision has been made."

Sears continued: "I can say that local councils agree to support the decisions made by the volunteer National Executive Board. Our united focus is on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training."

Not everyone thinks a shift in policy is a good idea. Jacksonville City Councilman Don Redman said he believes the move could invite predators into the well-known and respected program.

"You get anything other than that into the Boy Scouts, I think you'd be doing a cruel thing to society, and I don't think it would work... I think it would create problems," said Redman.

Former Eagle Scout Scott Kluksdahl says the decision would promote acceptance, and allow him to return to the program as a mentor.

"It does give the young Scouts the option to participate in scouting rather than banned from scouting all together, and on that same token, leaders such as myself. I'm not allowed to be a Scout leader because I am a gay man," said Kluksdahl.

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