Boy Scouts of America considers ending ban on gays

Mon Feb 4, 2013 7:10pm EST
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By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) - Boy Scouts of America board members opened a three-day meeting on Monday in which they will consider ending a controversial national ban on gay membership, sparking a flurry of lobbying from groups both for and against the change.

The national executive board, which lists more than 70 members, is expected to vote on Wednesday on whether to lift the ban they had reaffirmed just last year amid criticism from gay rights groups and gay former Scouts and Scout leaders.

The meeting at a hotel near Boy Scouts headquarters in Irving, Texas, is closed to the public.

The organization said late last month it was considering removing the national restriction based on sexual orientation and leaving the decision to local chapters. It said it would not dictate a position to units, members or parents.

Gay rights activists have said it is not enough to lift the national ban but allow local units to maintain a ban.

The board meeting comes as the century-old youth organization that prides itself on teaching boys life skills such as camping and leadership faces membership declines and a donations boycott by some corporations over its anti-gay policy.

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts has dropped 21 percent since 2000 to nearly 2.7 million. Adult leader membership has fallen 14 percent to just over 1 million, and the number of units has declined 12.6 percent to 108,971.

Activists have pressed corporations, including Merck and UPS, as well as the Intel Foundation to withhold contributions to the Boy Scouts while the ban stands.   Continued...

An Eagle Scout patch is pictured in Orlando, Florida in this May 30, 2012 file photograph. REUTERS/David Manning/Files