The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 23, 2013

Boy Scouts set to vote on gay issue

GRAPEVINE, Texas — Thursday’s vote on whether to lift the ban on gay youths in the Boy Scouts of America could symbolize a cultural shift.

Texas businessman Barry Price was so disturbed by the prospect that he joined a protest Wednesday, picking up a sign to urge Scout leaders to retain the ban.

“The things that shaped this country — the morals, the foundation of who we are — are being shaken and broken apart,” said Price, 68, of Grapevine, an Army veteran and former Boy Scout who said the vote troubled him as much as the U.S. military lifting its ban on gays serving openly two years ago.

Although the proposal would end the ban on gay youths, gay Scout leaders would still be barred. Scouting’s 1,400-member national council will vote by secret ballot, with a simple majority required for passage. Officials are expected to announce the results at a briefing here late Thursday. If it passes, the new policy would take effect Jan. 1, a Scouts spokesman said.

In that case, Price said, “the Boy Scouts will be devastated. It will decimate their finances and membership.”

Supporters agree that passage would signal a shift in philosophy — but they say it’s long overdue.

“This work really symbolizes where we are as a country,” said Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for the New York-based gay advocacy group GLAAD, noting that as gays have gained greater acceptance nationwide, banning them from Scouting “is not just anti-gay, it’s anti-American.”

Boy Scout leaders acknowledged this week that the vote is about more than just their group.

“Somehow, Scouting has become one of the focal points in the debate on homosexuality,” Boy Scouts President Wayne Perry wrote in an opinion piece this week in USA Today. He supports the new policy as “the right decision for Boy Scouts” that “would provide kids a place to belong while they learn and grow.”

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