February 7, 2013

If gay ban ends, Maine troops have decision to make

Maine's lead councils and some sponsor groups want to let each scout unit decide for themselves on whether to admit gays.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Neither Maine council is part of the coalition.

Leaving the decision to individual troops could lead to uncomfortable discussions. Parents of scouts in the same troop may be on opposite sides, and parents could seek a troop or pack that more closely aligns with their beliefs, even if it's in another community.

Steinmann, with the Katahdin Area Council, said he expects that parents will have a wide variety of opinions about whether to admit gay scouts and leaders. He said the focus on lifting the ban distracts from the scouts' mission of "character development and values-based leadership training."

Eric Tarbox, director of the Pine Tree Council, said his council already has a zero-tolerance policy against "sexual advocacy or inappropriate behavior," and he doesn't think a national policy shift would change that.

Asked how lifting the ban would affect leaders and troops in the Pine Tree Council, Tarbox said only that the question is "a tough one."

The ban on gays has cost the Boy Scouts of America large sponsorships, including from UPS and Merck. Both companies said they will not donate to the Boy Scouts of America as long as it bans gays.

The Girl Scouts organization, by contrast, has no such ban.

Boy Scout membership has declined significantly in recent years, particularly among younger boys. In 1998, there were nearly 2.2 million Cub Scouts. Last year, the number was about 1.6 million.

Boy Scouts of America has attributed the decline to broad changes in society, but it has faced persistent criticism over its ban on gays.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Knights of Columbus organization has taken a stance on the BSA’s policy banning gays. A spokesman said that the Catholic organization has not made any official statement about the debate and will wait for the BSA’s decision.

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