GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 19, 2012

Rockport Cubs reject Scouts' anti-gay stand

By Marjorie Nesin Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Leaders of the Rockport Cub Scouts have taken a stand against a national Boy Scouts of America policy that prohibits homosexuals from participating as Scouts or as adult volunteers with Scout troops.

Rockport Pack 55 Cub Scout’s den leaders and council members said in a prepared statement that they “vehemently disagree” with Boy Scouts of America’s July decision to formally reaffirm that the national group has no plans to change its membership policy, which “does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members,” but “does not grant membership who are open or avowed homosexuals.”

Rockport Cub Master Lizabeth Finer said Thursday that the Rockport council members voted unanimously Tuesday to reject the national Boy Scout policy, joining two other North Shore scouting groups — in Beverly and Marblehead — in denouncing the Boy Scouts of America position.

“The benefits of Scouting should be available to all children and their families, regardless of sexual orientation,” the Rockport group wrote in a statement.

Finer called the Boy Scouts’ don’t-ask, don’t-tell style policy outdated.

“It’s definitely behind the times,” Finer said Thursday. “The military, for goodness sake, doesn’t even have that policy anymore.”

Finer said that, while she’s not aware of the national policy creating any specific contentions in Rockport, it could be partly at fault for the low membership and registration numbers the pack has seen in recent years.

“People have said if the Boy Scouts are not allowing gays, we don’t want to be a part of it,” Finer said. “I’m assuming the reason why our registration is down is not because they have children who may be gay, but because they disagree with the policy. We wanted to let them know that we don’t agree with this just because we’re Scout leaders.”

Rejecting the Boy Scouts of America policy could give the Boy Scouts of America reason to revoke Rockport Cub Scout’s charter membership. Finer said that fear delayed the council’s action slightly, inspiring discussion — but that the council still voted unanimously to oppose the Boy Scouts of America’s membership stance.

The national Boy Scouts policy on homosexuality had resurfaced in July as the organization completed a two-year examination of its membership standards, at the urging of many civil rights activist groups.

The national organization’s decision to continue denying membership to gay scouts has prompted many Scouts to turn in their badges. And one teen Scout in the San Francisco Bay area was denied the Boy Scout’s highest honor, the Eagle Scout Badge, soon after the Boy Scouts of America’s reaffirmation of their policy and based on his sexual orientation.

Ryan Andresen was set to receive his Eagle Scout award after almost 12 years of participation in the Scouts, when Boy Scouts of America denied him the award because he was openly gay. Andresen’s mother, Karen Andresen started an Internet petition at the beginning of October, urging that troop to change their policy and sign her son as an Eagle Scout. The petition had over 410,000 signatures of support Thursday.

Finer said the Rockport troops’ hope is similar to Andresen’s mother’s wish: if enough troops stand up against the Boy Scouts of America’s policy, the opponents could see the need to change it.

Kevin Michols, an official at the Yankee Clipper Council, which oversees Scouting in northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, did not return calls and emails for comment on the matter Thursday.

Finer said that, whether or not Rockport Scouts lose their operating privileges, the parents will find another way for their kids to organize and volunteer in a group.

For now, Finer said, the council’s decision to take a stance against the Boy Scouts of America’s position allows parents an opportunity to talk with their children about some of the core values of Scouting — values she said, “that this policy seems to go against.”

Core Scouting values include courage, compassion, honesty and respect, according to Finer.

“That’s courage, we have to stand up and say this is what we believe in,” Finer said. “How much respect and compassion is there if you’re not allowing a homosexual person to be a leader if their son’s in the Scouts?”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.