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.
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.
“I have a lot of friends who feel exactly like I do,” he said. “It goes against what we believe in that homosexuality is not right.”
Alan Atkinson, 56, Scoutmaster of Troop 241 in Norman, welcomed the change.
Many Boy Scouts would welcome gay members into their units, he said.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” Atkinson said. “We're voting on something that impacts membership, and the youth membership feels strongly that it would be OK to have gay Boy Scouts.”
Scott Hamilton, executive director of the Cimarron Alliance in Oklahoma City, said the new policy will eliminate the need for children to lie about their sexual orientation.
That's a problem that conflicts with what Scouting is supposed to teach, he said.
The decision came as a surprise because of the magnitude of opposition coming from churches, he said.
“If you would have asked me a week ago if I thought it would pass, I would've said no,” Hamilton said. “Churches around the country have been praying that Boy Scouts will continue discriminating against gay boys.”
Kevin Graves, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oklahoma City Stake, said he was pleased with the National Council's vote.
“You know we really appreciate the Boy Scouts and its commitment to our duty to God,” he said. “Sexual orientation is not a factor for boys to qualify to join a Boy Scout troop sponsored by the Latter-day Saints.”
Mormons are more interested in a youth's decision to follow moral teachings such as refraining from sexual activity.
“The willingness of those boys to abide by the moral standards of behavior is what our rule has been,” he said.
Contributing: Staff Writer Carla Hinton; Associated Press