Local Scout leaders divided over policy change regarding gays

National Council voted in Grapevine, Texas, to allow gay Scouts, while maintaining a ban on gay adult leaders.
BY KYLE HINCHEY khinchey@opubco.com Modified: May 23, 2013 at 10:30 pm •  Published: May 24, 2013

A longtime member of an organization that is one of the Boy Scouts' strongest supporters says he likely will not renew his membership now that the Scouts have voted to allow gay members.

Meeting in Grapevine, Texas, the BSA's National Council voted Thursday to open its ranks to gay Scouts but not to gay adult leaders. Of the roughly 1,400 voting members who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal. The policy change takes effect Jan. 1.

Gayle Reams, 74, of Bethany, said he joined the Philmont Staff Association in 1974 to help enhance the learning experience of young Scouts. When he learned the results of Thursday's vote, he was filled with disappointment, he said.

“Boy Scouts will never be the same,” Reams said. “I just feel like the Boy Scouts have committed a grave mistake based on their core values with just about everything.”

Reams joined the Boy Scouts in 1947, and he said the religious values upon which it was founded should continue to be strictly enforced.

Acceptance welcomed

The Last Frontier Council, which serves 24 counties in central, western and southwestern Oklahoma, surveyed adult members to measure their approval of the proposal.

When 8,000 members were presented with the resolution, 58 percent of the 1,500 who responded said they approved, said Jeff Woolsey, the council's executive director.

Woolsey recommended that the council's representatives to Thursday's meeting follow the Last Frontier Council's bylaws, advising that the council use its four votes according to the preference of the membership.

“As is the case nationally, the members of our council care deeply about Scouting and this organization,” Woolsey said.

Reams said the Scouts' decision to allow gay members probably will lead to his and many others' departure from the Philmont Staff Association. Philmont is a renowned Scout camp in New Mexico.

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