Boy Scout leaders to vote on lifting gay ban

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 22, 2013 at 8:19 pm •  Published: May 22, 2013
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The debate is deeply emotional for many people on both sides, who talked about their experiences in Scouting and their worry about what would happen next.

Bill Lizzio of Johnson City, Tenn., who is Wade's former scoutmaster, was holding one end of a banner opposing the change and waving at cars driving into the resort. Asked about the harm of allowing gays, he talked about his concern with sexual attraction between Scouts, saying that he wouldn't let a boy and a girl sleep in the same tent at camp.

"And so how do we keep people apart that might have an attraction and don't openly state that to the adult leadership?" Lizzio said. "Or the ones that do, now do we segregate a gay Scout and put him in a tent by himself?

"That sends a terrible message. It doesn't work."

But Mark Noel described a different situation from when he was a scoutmaster in New Hampshire. A group of Scouts came to him and asked what he would do if one of them was gay. The Scouts didn't know Noel himself was gay.

"What could I tell them? That I'm an ally, it's OK? I'm with you?" Noel said Wednesday, his voice wavering. "There's no way for me to even signal them that it's OK, that I am not going to be conditional about applying the Scout Oath and Law."

"I am loyal, period. Friendly, period. Courteous, period," he said.

Thursday's expected vote brings an end to a fight that has resembled a political campaign.

Opponents of a change sent mailings to voting members, after fighting to get the names and addresses voters from BSA, by citing a Texas requirement that allowed any voting member to see the full list, said John Stemberger, organizer of OnMyHonor.net. They also scheduled 40 rallies across the country on the same day last week.

Supporters of allowing gay Scouts used a political consulting firm and targeted about 120 local Scouting councils that they thought were the most competitive — the "swing districts" where they thought votes could be won. Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, said earlier this week that they believed to have about 300 "yes" votes confirmed through public announcements and internal conversations, with perhaps 100 or so leaning yes.

"We've done everything that we can," Wahls said. "We feel like we are very prepared for any outcome."

No one will know for sure, however, until BSA announces the results Thursday evening.

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On the Web: BSA Membership Standards Resolution: http://bit.ly/185yyXk

Associated Press National Writer David Crary in New York contributed to this report.

Follow Nomaan Merchant on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nomaanmerchant