While the Boy Scouts of America has reaffirmed its decision to ban openly homosexual members and leaders, the Vermont chapter, Green Mountain Council, has reaffirmed its less-stringent nondiscrimination policy.
The Boy Scouts of America announced July 17 that it would continue the ban, after increasing public pressure caused the organization to form a committee in 2010 to evaluate the policy.
The issue was raised again in April when a lesbian scoutmaster in Ohio was banned from leading her son’s troop. Both President Barack Obama and presidential nominee Mitt Romney have released statements saying they oppose the ban on homosexuals.
Scout Executive Edward McCollin, head of the Scouts’ Green Mountain Council, said the state organization released its own nondiscrimination policy in 2001, after the national Scouts won a Supreme Court case in 2000 allowing them to impose the ban.
“When that happened, the Green Mountain Council as an executive board created their own nondiscrimination policy that was in line with what the people of Vermont were comfortable with, without going against the national Boy Scouts of America policy,” McCollin said.
The policy from the Green Mountain Council states, “The Green Mountain Council, Boy Scouts of America, does not inquire into the sexual orientation of existing or prospective members, youth or adult.”
McCollin says he has heard both sides of the argument from the public on whether to allow homosexuals in the Scouts or to act as scoutmasters. He has had discussions with scoutmasters who are unhappy with the national position, and McCollin has heard of two children leaving the Scouts.
“It is what it is,” McCollin said. “Every local council has to deal with it as best they can, based on the makeup of their constituents and customers. We’re trying to do the best we can here.”
McCollin was asked if he agrees with the national policy.
“That’s not my place,” he said. “My job is to help young people develop leadership skills. I’m not going to make a call on that.”
Some local scoutmasters are either unfamiliar with the policy or do not want to talk about it. One scoutmaster hung up the phone when asked for comment on the ban on homosexuals.
Richard Matheson, a scoutmaster in Northfield, said he had not heard of any news coming from the Boy Scouts of America, but did say from a military standpoint he did not care if someone was heterosexual or homosexual, as long as they got the job done.
“As far as the Boy Scouts are concerned, I don’t know, I’d really have to stop and think about it,” Matheson said.
Fred Lewis, a scoutmaster in Fair Haven, was indifferent to the ban and said he had not reviewed the recent decision.
“We really haven’t been in a situation where we’d need to address it,” Lewis said.
Chris Flynn, a scoutmaster in East Montpelier, said he has not heard anything from his Scouts or their parents about the decision. He was aware of the ban, but was hesitant to give his thoughts on it.
“I don’t know that I want to give my opinion,” he said. “It’s a slippery slope for me to even delve into.”
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