May 24, 2013

Maine views mixed as Boy Scouts end gay ban

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Parents and leaders of Boy Scouts in Maine had differing views Thursday on Boy Scouts of America's decision to allow openly gay youths to participate in scouting.

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A statue of a Boy Scout stands in front of the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas. Parents and leaders of Boy Scouts in Maine had differing views Thursday on Boy Scouts of America's decision to end a longtime ban on gay youths.

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Some called it a positive stand against discrimination, while others said the issue of sexuality should not be addressed at all by the youth organization.

The national organization ended its controversial policy banning gay scouts. It did not vote on its ban against gay scout leaders, which will remain.

"It's a nice first step. I don't see it being a last step," said Julie Wagner of Portland, whose third-grade son is a Bear Scout. "Gay scouts will grow up to be gay adults. Sexual orientation should not have any bearing on participation on any level."

Kelly McDonald, an Eagle Scout and the father of a Boy Scout, said he was disappointed that the decision wasn't expanded to allow gay adults to participate as scout leaders.

"It's a step in the right direction but it remains discrimination," McDonald said. "It sends a wrong message – as if gays and lesbians are more likely to be a predator when they turn 18. Scouting shouldn't have a policy on sexuality."

McDonald said the decision creates a mixed policy that sends a bad message to scouts and could make it more difficult to recruit adult leaders.

"It says it's OK to be gay or lesbian as a child, but not as an adult. The whole point of scouting is to train our children to be leaders," McDonald said.

Meg Kusturin of Gorham, the mother of a 9-year-old Cub Scout, said Boy Scouts of America should be focused on the children, not on issues she views as political.

"We need to keep our focus on the boys. Scouting shouldn't be in the political arena. It's more a national-level issue than in the day-to-day of helping these young boys grow as leaders," Kusturin said.

Eric Tarbox, director of the Pine Tree Council of Maine, which oversees scouting activities in central and southern Maine, said it was inappropriate to address the issue of sexuality in any form. He said he was "neither pleased nor displeased" by the national decision.

"The adult matters of sexuality should not be part of scouting. Whether it's asexuality, heterosexuality or homosexuality, it has never been part of the education program of the Boy Scouts," Tarbox said.

In a written statement, Marshall Steinmann, an Eagle Scout who is executive director of the Katahdin Area Council in Orono, said: "The scouting community has spoken. But regardless of what the decision could have been or is, our job as a council has always been and will always be to deliver a quality scouting program that is fun -- because that's what scouting is all about."

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com 

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