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US scouts to reconsider gay ban

Ryan Andresen’s father says his son was denied a scout badge due to his sexuality, but hopes the Boy Scouts of America will change their policy.

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The Boy Scouts of America is considering lifting a ban on openly gay members, a move hailed by those former members who have campaigned for the change.

''The BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,'' a statement said.

Bill Thomas, 27, who became an Eagle Scout in 2003, said the proposed change was a ''positive step'', but noted it would leave membership criteria to local troops, which would allow them to maintain the ban.

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, the founder of a group opposing the Boy Scouts anti-gay policy, said the scouts decision to review their longstanding ban on gay members was a step in the right direction.

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, the founder of a group opposing the Boy Scouts anti-gay policy, said the Scouts' decision to review their longstanding ban on gay members was a step in the right direction. Photo: Reuters

''As I understand it, the potential policy change [means that] local affiliates of the Boy Scouts of America can essentially discriminate at their own discretion, which I believe is immoral.''

Under current policy, the Scouts do not inquire about a person's sexual orientation, but will not grant membership to ''individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behaviour that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA''.

A spokesman for the Boy Scouts, Deron Smith, said the national board would review the matter at its regularly scheduled meeting next week in Texas.

Ryan Andresen stands in front of a wall hanging named "Tolerance Wall" which was part of his Eagle Scout project.

Ryan Andresen stands in front of a wall hanging named "Tolerance Wall" which was part of his Eagle Scout project. Photo: Reuters/Change.org

In July the Scouts said they were reaffirming their ban on openly gay members, following a two-year evaluation.

Asked about the decision to revisit the issue, Mr Smith said it was ''a result of a longstanding dialogue within the scouting family.

Last year, scouting realised the policy caused some volunteers and chartered organisations which oversee and deliver the program to act in conflict with their missions, principles, or religious beliefs.''

The president of the socially conservative Massachusetts Family Institute, Kris Mineau, said: ''We hope that the BSA will not change their longstanding policy of sexual purity for their leaders and for their participants.''

He believed the Scouts felt pressure from corporations that had withdrawn financial support. ''This is bullying on a grand scale.''

The New York Times