Boy Scouts of America considers lifting ban on gays

Local units would make final decision

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - The Boy Scouts of America is considering a retreat from its controversial policy of excluding gays as leaders and youth members. Implementation of such a change would ultimately be made at the local level.

As early as next week, the Boy Scouts of America is considering the dramatic change, which would reverse its ban on gays as leaders and also as members of its youth ranks.

"We're going to learn that this a lesson that our children taught us," said Tony Plakas, who wants the ban lifted entirely and immediately.

Plakas speaks not only as a gay man and also the CEO of Compass, the gay and lesbian community center based in Lake Worth, but also as a former Boy Scout.

"I think that this is one of those things that is definitely incramental, that this is a perfect first step," he said.

Though news of a potential change in policy comes from the national office of the Boy Scouts, decisions about implementation of new practices concerning gays would likely be made on the local level.

In a statement, Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations for the Boy Scouts of America, writes, "The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organizations mission, principles or religious beliefs."

The Boy Scouts' Gulf Stream Council, which oversees seven south Florida counties and tens of thousands of youth members, has yet to comment on the potential changes.

Churches sponsor well over half of the nation's 116,000 scouting organizations. Each of those organizations may interpret a lift of a ban on gays differently.

"BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families," writes Smith.

There is opposition to any lifting of the ban, but for Plakas and his partner, Jamie Foreman, who became an Eagle Scout, this is part of an evolution of the more than century-old Boy Scouts of America. "We just have to wait and see what the policy looks like."

The head of the Gulf Stream Council referred any questions about the potential change to the national office of the Boy Scouts of America, even though it seems final decisions would occur on the local level.


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