Boy Scouts Accept Gay Youth

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COLUMBIA - Starting on January 1, 2014, the Boy Scouts of America will open ranks to openly gay youth.

The new policy change was approved in May when sixty percent of the 14,000 voting members voted in favor of it.

Scout Executive Doug Callahan with the Great Rivers Council said this membership policy change simply states if a young man says he is gay, that by itself is not a reason to deny them membership in the Boy Scouts of America.

Callahan said he doesn't think it will make much of a difference in Columbia, or at the Great Rivers Council, which covers 33 counties through central and northeast Missouri.

"We don't ask the question, we never had asked the question of boys, young men and young women about their sexual orientation and we are not going to start doing that," Callahan said. "Our membership requirement basically stays the same as it's all about the age, about subscribing to the principles and values followed the Scout's oath of ‘to do my duty to God', and behaviors making sure you behave in an accordance to those virtues and those principles."

Callahan emphasized the quality of the Boy Scouts program is more important than this one policy change.

"I think what's much more important is the quality of the Scout Program that we provide to our young people through the Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and venture crews throughout Columbia and throughout our territory," Callahan said. "Hopefully if anything it will help increase the membership because it will make sure that all boys and all young men and women feel comfortable and they can join Scout and gain all the benefits the Scout program has to offer."

The vote at the BSA's National Council in May was followed by nationwide debate. Callahan said a vast majority of people he has talked with understand this change. 

"Anytime you have a change it doesn't please everybody. We had some folks very happy with the change, other folks think we have gone too far, other folks think we haven't changed enough. So the opinions on the policy change run the whole gamut," Callahan said. "But I think most people recognize the most important thing about the Scout program is not this issue, it's about all the things we teach, and this issue really isn't defining role of Scout or any of our mission. I think most people, whether they agree with it or don't agree with it, realize that all the other things the Scout does outweigh whether they agree or disagree with this one aspect of the policy."

Seventy percent of the Boy Scouts sponsors are churches. Some churches dropped their sponsorship because of the new policy. 

"Since this policy was adopted in May, we have had a handful of churches drop their sponsorship of their Scout units," Callahan said. "But in 95% of the cases we found another church and another organization that picked up that sponsorship, so we anticipate losing very few units overall because of this policy."

The BSA posted a question-and-answer documents related to the policy. Click here to see the online document.