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Boy Scouts proposal to allow gay youths draws fire from both sides

The Boy Scouts drafted the proposal on gay youths after sending surveys to about 1 million members. Many respondents, the organization said Friday, felt that youths should not be denied the benefits of Scouting.

By Correspondent / April 19, 2013

James Oliver, left, hugs his brother and fellow Eagle Scout, Will Oliver, who is gay, as Will and other supporters carry four boxes filled with a petition to end the ban on gay scouts and leaders in front of the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Dallas, Texas, in February.

Tony Gutierrez/AP/File

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The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is proposing to lift its ban on gay youths, but not gay adults, the organization announced Friday, responding to pressure from gay rights advocates to drop restrictions in its membership policies.

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Staff writer

Allison Terry works on the web team at the Christian Science Monitor, coordinating online infographics. She contributes to the culture section and Global News blog, and previously reported and edited for the national news and cover page desks.

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The proposal, which will be put to a vote at its National Council meeting in May, is a change of course from the plan it floated earlier this year, which would have given local units the option to either include or exclude gay members. The new policy states that "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone," Deron Smith, the organization's spokesman, told Reuters.

The new position is already drawing criticism from groups on both sides of the issue. Gay rights advocates say the BSA should lift the ban for both youths and adults, while conservative groups and churches support keeping the ban in place.

"By refusing to consider an end to its ban on gay and lesbian parents, the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy," Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for GLAAD, which promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, told Reuters.

GLAAD, together with Scouts for Equality, supported campaigns that amassed 1.6 million signatures for an online petition on Change.org that calls for an end to banning gays from the Boy Scouts.

The Scouts are taking a "step in the right direction," said Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage Campaign, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"We are seeing a rapid and historic shift toward equality for all," Mr. Jacobs said in a statement. "The Boy Scouts are now beginning to catch up with this reality."

For John Stemberger, an Eagle Scout and founder of OnMyHonor.net, a coalition of parents and Scouts who support the ban on gays, the proposal raises many concerns.

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