Boy Scouts Vote On Whether To Allow Openly Gay Members

Members of the Boy Scouts of America will vote on Thursday on whether to allow gay members.

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The leadership of the Boys Scouts of America is voting today on whether to allow openly gay youth to join. The result of that vote is expected to be announced shortly. Groups on both sides have been protesting and lobbying in Grapevine, Texas, where the Boy Scouts are meeting. NPR's Kathy Lohr is there, and she joins me now. Kathy, this has been a really contentious issue for people both inside and outside the Boy Scouts. What's the atmosphere there like as the group meets?

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: It's a really tough divisive issue. And as these 1,400 members are voting this week, there have been dueling groups. Some parents and Scouts are protesting outside on the street, outside of where this meeting is taking place, holding signs that say vote no. And there have been press conferences on both sides, with groups who are trying to get their point across to voting members who are here from all over the country.

BLOCK: What are the arguments that the Scout leadership is hearing, first, from those who are opposed to allowing openly gay Boy Scouts?

LOHR: You have some church leaders and conservative groups, including the Family Research Council, Texas Values and a new group called OnMyHonor.Net. And they say the policy would go against their moral values, that it would lead to gay leaders being allowed to be in the Boy Scouts, and it would lead to more abuse in scouting, which the Boy Scouts have denied because the Boy Scout policy says there is no sexual conduct allowed by any Scout. They also say that the group is caving into pressure from some board members and activists, and the Scouts shouldn't listen to them.

BLOCK: And what about the other side? What are they saying?

LOHR: On the other side are gay rights groups, including Boy Scouts for Equality, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination and the Human Rights Campaign. And they say that the policy to ban gays is discriminatory and should not continue, that sexual orientation shouldn't be part of the membership standards at all, and that's the resolution that was being voted on today. And then they also say the group should be inclusive, that opportunities should be open to all boys.

BLOCK: Well, has there been any signals from the Boy Scouts' leadership about how the vote is going today?

LOHR: They are not talking while this meeting has been going on in Texas. But the group's president, Wayne Perry, did have an editorial published in today's USA Today newspaper, which call for member to lift the ban on gay youth. And he denied that groups were responding to what he called pressure from the outside.

BLOCK: Well, if that is how the vote goes, if they do vote to lift the ban on gay youth, when would that take effect?

LOHR: That would take effect on January 1st. But no matter what the vote, we already know that neither side will be completely happy. Those who want to change the policy and allow gay youth, they want to extend that to adults who are gay. So if this passes, when an openly gay boy turns 18, he would no longer be allowed to participate in scouting as a leader and would basically be kicked out at that time.

Gay rights groups say that's also discriminatory. And they point to cases where leaders have been expelled just because they said that they are gay. And as far as others, those who oppose the policy, they say that the Scouts will lose hundreds of thousands of boys as a result and that some faith-based organizations that sponsor troops may not want to sponsor them anymore if they are told they must accept gay members.

BLOCK: OK. Kathy, thanks so much.

LOHR: My pleasure.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Kathy Lohr talking with us from Texas, where the Boy Scouts are voting on whether to end the organization's ban on openly gay youth. We expect to hear the outcome of the vote later today.

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