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Scouts may open troops to gay youths, leaders

Updated: March 1, 2013 7:59PM

The Boys Scouts of America announced Monday the organization is considering a dramatic change in its policy of excluding gays as leaders and youth members.

Under the change being considered, the different religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout units would be able to decide for themselves how to address the issue — either maintaining an exclusion of gays or opening up their membership.

Under the proposed change, said BSA spokesman Deron Smith, “the Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents.”

Officials with the Three Fires Boy Scout Council, which oversees Scouts throughout the Fox Valley, have not yet decided how to handle the policy change if it does occur, marketing specialist Nancy Loftus said Monday.

“This isn’t happening at a local level, so we don’t have any response as yet,” she said.

The council, which oversees about 25,000 Scouts in Kane, DuPage, Kendall, Cook and Will counties, would not be able to force packs and troops under its jurisdiction to either accept gay members or to ban them, she added.

She also said that, to her knowledge, no homosexuals have ever tried to join an area Scout troop, either as a Scout or as a leader.

Maramech District Commissioner Chris Vavrinek, who helps run Scouting activities in Montgomery, Boulder Hill and Newark, said he would like to see homosexuals join the Boy Scouts.

“Everybody should have the opportunity to participate in the Scout program because of the fantastic values and morals it teaches,” he said.

“The Boy Scouts of America has a well-built youth protection program that protects all the boys from being abused. Scouts are not allowed to be alone with a leader at any time, and we do background checks on all adults who work with Scouts,” Vavrinek said.

“Just because someone has a different sexual background doesn’t mean that any abuse will take place.”

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