By RYAN ATKINS
Special to the OBSERVER
The Boy Scouts of America are expecting to take action on a resolution to allow openly gay members to participate in the organization. What the result of that action will be at the national meeting in May, however, still remains to be seen.
"After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," said John Wojciechowicz, scout executive of the Allegheny Highlands Council.
According to Wojciechowicz, the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America is continuing to listen to the perspectives and concerns of the approximately 1,400 voting members of the national council. The Allegheny Highlands Council is not an autonomous entity, so it is required to work directly with the national organization. In an official statement from Wojciechowicz, the Allegheny Highlands Council, which oversees all Cub and Boy Scouts in Chautauqua County, said that it trusts that the national council will "fairly and accurately determine the most appropriate path forward."
The Boy Scouts of America has had issues in the past, both in Jamestown as well as nationally, because of this debate. Founded in 1910, the organization's policies currently exclude openly gay individuals from participating, and in 2004 the Boy Scouts of America adopted a "Youth Leadership" policy that stated that homosexual conduct was inconsistent with the obligations of members in the organization to be morally straight.
The "Youth Leadership" policy was removed from the website BSALegal.org in February 2010, however, and several members of the BSA National Executive Board have stepped forward as opponents of the current policy and are working to change it.
According to Jamestown City Council president Greg Rabb, D-At Large, the discrimination against openly gay members hits very close to home. A former Boy Scout himself, Rabb said it hurts him to do anything against the organization because of how much he got out of it and enjoyed it.
"I was a gay Boy Scout and a gay scout leader," said Rabb. "Now I'm in the position where I'm fighting them."
According to Rabb, he's not anti-Boy Scouts, he's anti-discrimination. He feels that if a gay boy wants to join the Boy Scouts to become a better man, then he should be allowed.
"There's no justification that anyone can offer me in regard to the discrimination," said Rabb. "At the time that I joined, I was young and wasn't talking about who I was, but I was still gay - it just wasn't an issue that was discussed. There's never a valid excuse for discrimination, period. If a gay boy could benefit from this, I don't see why they wouldn't let them in. There were probably many of us that were gay that loved being a Boy Scout and got tons out of it. An 11-year-old kid probably still isn't entirely sure about his sexuality, so they're almost forcing them to say that they're gay or straight. Putting the kid on the spot like that is just ridiculous, even if he does know and is comfortable with it."
Rabb, who says that he learned a lot about leadership and community from the organization, is optimistic that the Boy Scouts of America eventually change their views about homosexuality and allow openly gay members to participate.
"Call me horribly naive, but watching all of the stuff that's changed in my life, I think that the Boy Scouts will change," said Rabb. "Those of us that are against discrimination are on the winning side. At one point we wouldn't let the military on campus because of discrimination, but now they're back. I'm hopeful the same thing will happen with the scouts, and when it does I'll be there celebrating with them."