Activists rally ahead of Boy Scouts vote on gay youth ban

Wed May 22, 2013 11:37pm EDT
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By Marice Richter

GRAPEVINE, Texas (Reuters) - Gay rights activists and members of conservative groups gathered in the Texas town of Grapevine on Wednesday where Boy Scouts of America delegates were expected to vote at a national meeting to lift its ban on gay youth membership.

More than 1,400 delegates are expected to pass a resolution on Thursday to lift the ban, according to Boy Scouts officials. The vote comes about three months after members of the executive board delayed a decision on loosening the ban.

The Boy Scouts' long-standing ban on gays has become a polarizing issue at the center of the debate on gay rights in the United States, which allows gay soldiers to serve openly in the military.

But while national polls show growing acceptance of gay rights, a Boy Scouts online survey of about 200,000 members, parents and leaders showed overwhelming support for maintaining the 103-year-old ban, by a margin of almost 2-1.

The Boy Scouts top leadership endorses the new policy and has encouraged delegates to support it through a webcast. BSA President Wayne Perry said: "It was never our intent to prevent young people from being part of this organization."

On Wednesday, gay rights leaders and conservative organizations held separate events near a hotel in Grapevine where delegates are meeting.

About 100 people, many wearing scouts uniforms, lined part of the route from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to the Gaylord Texan Resort to greet delegates with American flags and signs urging them to reject the resolution.

Admitting gays would create "safety and security issues" at overnight campouts and a potential plummet in sponsorship if churches pull out over differences in beliefs, said John Stemberger, an Orlando lawyer, Eagle Scout, former scoutmaster and founder of an online organization trying to stop the change.   Continued...