The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 29, 2013

Local Scout groups readying for possible change on gay issue

MANKATO — With the Boy Scouts of America seemingly about to drop its long-standing ban on gays as Scouts and leaders, scouting groups are pondering potential ramifications at the local level.

“As a sponsoring organization (of Scouts), we wouldn’t have a problem with it because everything is kind of moving that way,” said Lee Overmoen, longtime administrator of the Mankato Moose Lodge until his recent retirement.

 “Things have really changed in the last few years with the whole gay issue, and rightfully so.”

As recently as last summer the national Boy Scout organization was reaffirming its stance against avowed homosexuals serving in scouting, its leader saying the policy “remains in the best interests of scouting and reflects the beliefs of its members.”

But on Monday Scout officials suggested that an about-face decision could be forthcoming, saying the organization’s National Executive Board will meet to reconsider its membership policy.

Paul Wilkinson, head of the Mankato-based Twin Valley Council serving scouts in 15 southern Minnesota counties, said he was a bit taken aback by the announcement.

“This one caught me a little off guard.”

Although other Scout councils — including the state’s largest, Northern Star Council — have gone against national policy for years, Wilkinson has said in the past that the local council follows national policy and doesn’t try to create its own.

He said Tuesday that will continue to be the case because the anticipated lifting of the national organization’s ban on gays would mean that the decision to ban or not to ban would fall upon the local civic and religious groups that sponsor Scout troops.

Wilkinson said such autonomy doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing on the matter because gay issues continue to be societal powder kegs.

“It’s kind of a lose-lose for the Boy Scouts because you’ve got the far left and the far right and everything in between.”

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