In a sign of discord within the Boy Scouts of America ahead of a key May vote, Scouting leaders in Baltimore and Los Angeles proposed their own resolutions to end the group’s longstanding ban on adult gay and lesbian leaders.
The proposals, submitted by leaders of the Los Angeles Area Council and Northeast Region Executive Vice President Jay Lenrow, contrast with a proposal released on Friday by national Scouts leaders. That proposal would end the organization’s ban on gay youth while continuing to bar gay adults from staff or volunteer leadership roles. Some 1,400 Scouting leaders are set to vote on that issue at an annual meeting that begins May 22.
Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said the organization had “received various resolutions recommending a variety of options about this policy,” and that it referred those to its Resolutions Committee. That committee “reviews the resolutions and determines whether it is appropriate for discussion at the National Council annual business meeting or whether any such matter should be referred to another committee or dealt with in some other appropriate manner,” he said in an email.
The committee would meet sufficiently in advance of its May meetings to address the resolutions, he said.
The Los Angeles Council proposal, according to a press release it put out on Tuesday, would “expressly implement a policy of nondiscrimination” and change the policy to read “membership and adult leadership positions are open to persons regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Mike Bryant, the immediate past president of the Los Angeles Council and a current board member, said he couldn’t vote for the original resolution proposed by national Scouts leaders. “If the alternative resolution, which provides for a non-discrimination policy for both members and adult volunteer leaders doesn’t make the ballot, I must abstain,” he said.
The proposal from Mr. Lenrow stipulates that in choosing adult leaders each local organization “shall have the right (but not be required) to grant membership to individuals … without regard to sexual orientation.”
Mr. Lenrow, who is from Baltimore, submitted his resolution as an individual Scouts volunteer though he says he has support from other Scouts leaders who are authorized to vote in May.
Mr. Lenrow, who is Jewish, says the issue is related to freedom of religion for him. “I have bristled for 12 years because I felt that certain religious groups were preventing me from participating in scouting in accordance with my religious principles,” he said. (The Scouts “Declaration of Religious Principle” recognizes an “an obligation to God” among all members, but members to believe in God, but is open to all faiths.)
Some of Mr. Lenrow’s supporters say his proposal might make it to the ballot because it doesn’t directly contradict the national proposal, which changed the policy on gay youth, but essentially made no change to the rules about adults.
Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls said he supported “anything that gets us towards a full resolution – and Jay’s resolution would do that — but our campaign won’t be over until we have gotten to the goal of full inclusion.”
Geoffrey A. Fowler