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Local Boy Scouts weigh gay membership

By Joe Beck

Gay youth would become eligible to join the Boys Scouts of America under a proposed change in membership standards scheduled for an upcoming vote, and the local branch of the Scouts has been in the middle of the debate.

Stuart Williams, Scout Executive and CEO of the scouts' Shenandoah Area Council, said Monday that local adult and youth members voted in a recent survey asking their opinions about whether the ban on gays should be lifted. The survey results were passed on to the national committee that has been studying the issue, Williams said.

Williams said the results were "split pretty evenly on both sides," but he had no specific tally available.

The survey asked the participants whether they would continue to be involved in scouting if the ban on gay members were lifted. It also asked if they wanted to remain in scouting if the ban on gays does not change. They were also given an opportunity to comment on the issue.

"Our comments locally mirrored those of the rest of the country," Williams said.

While the proposal would allow gay youth to join scouting, it would continue to ban gay adults from becoming troop leaders.

The proposal was written by the Scouts' executive committee and will be submitted to a vote in June at the annual meeting of the Boy Scouts of America.

Williams said nearly 600 members of the Shenandoah council, constituting about 22 percent of the organization, responded to the survey. The survey was conducted in the latter part of February and most of March.

In a news release issued Friday, Williams said the Shenandoah Area Council was one of 280 councils reporting membership opinion to the national offices.

"While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of scouting," Williams wrote.

Williams said Monday the Shenandoah Council has taken no official stance on the issue, except to maintain its commitment to the national scout program.

"We will implement and follow whatever the national policy is, whether there is a change or isn't a change," Williams said.

The Shenandoah Council includes nine counties, six in the Shenandoah Valley and three in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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