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Boy Scouts reaffirms ban on gays. Is it out of step with the times? (+video)

The Boy Scouts said it was keeping its ban on gays after a 2-year review by a panel representing a 'diversity of perspectives.' Critics said the organization was at odds with its own principles.

By Staff writer / July 17, 2012

This file photo shows the city-owned Boy Scouts headquarters in Philadelphia. After a confidential two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America emphatically reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays, ruling out any changes despite relentless protest campaigns by some critics.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

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Los Angeles

The Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday that it was affirming, after a secret two-year review, its ban on gay members. The decision elicited widespread criticism and raised questions about whether the world’s largest youth organization was out of step with the times – and its own principles.

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The Boys Scouts of America says no gay boys or leaders allowed. The organization upheld its policy after a two-year review brought on by pressure from gay rights groups.

Everyone from scout leaders to legal analysts pointed to the cultural currents moving toward more inclusion of gays in US society, from President Obama’s announcement that he now personally supports gay marriage, to the end of the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, to the Episcopal church’s decision to bless same-sex unions.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is on the wrong side of history on this issue and will “wither away” if it sticks to this policy, says David Cohen, professor at the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Pointing to the 2000 Supreme Court decision that upheld the private group’s right to choose its members, he adds via e-mail, “just because the Supreme Court has said the Boy Scouts are allowed to have this policy does not mean that it is just or that it is consistent with basic human compassion.”

In its statement announcing the decision to continue the ban on both gay scouts and leaders, the Texas-based Boy Scouts of America (BSA) cited support from parents and said the decision was the result of a two-year review by a panel that represented “a diversity of perspectives and opinions."

Further, the statement, which did not identify the panel members, said, "the review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations – both from within Scouting and from outside of the organization."

But group members say the move flies in the face of the organization’s own stated values.

“It is reprehensible that BSA would exclude gays,” says Michael Reinemer, a current Scout leader and former Boy Scout who lives in Annandale, Va. While the Boy Scouts is a private organization, he says, “it is also an American institution that develops character. Its highest level of leadership training (Wood Badge) requires involvement in bringing diversity to your scout unit.”

While the Boy Scouts may have the right to discriminate, the public also has the right to choose other options for young boys, says Professor Cohen, adding, “as each successive public opinion poll shows, Americans are not comfortable with bigotry against lesbian and gay individuals. Continuing this policy is a recipe for the Boy Scouts to wither away and be remembered as a bigoted organization that refused to change with the times.”

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