Midtown residents are speaking out about the Boy Scouts' consideration of lifting its ban on gay members and leaders.
For the last 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America have banned gays from joining their ranks. On Feb. 6, the organization announced that it would delay until May its decision to either continue enforcing the ban or to admit gays, which has sparked both outrage and praise from parents and those involved with Scouts.
@mattnatl - "I'm gay and would love them to lift it but they are a private organization and shouldn't be forced to."
Marc Acampora said, "I abhor discrimination. I also abhor the use of government force to control private organizations. The Boy Scouts does enjoy many privileges of public entities including tax breaks and use of public facilities. I believe they need to go one way or the other and not continue to blur the lines between public and private. Ideally, I'd like them to both eliminate any public handouts or tax advantages, while also, of their own accord, cease their discriminatory policies, which not only exclude gay scouts, but also atheists."
Patrick Teague said, "I am a gay Eagle Scout and was a counselor at local, national, and international camps.
While I support their right to be wrong, I disagree with their discriminatory policy.
Bigotry is taught. By showing young people that it is OK to treat certain people as 'less than,' you are promoting bigotry and discrimination."
Billy Cochran leads Gay Fathers of Atlanta, which meets in Virginia-Highland at the Ponce de Leon branch of the Atlanta-Fulton County Libraries and at All Saints Episcopal Church in Midtown. He said that while he respects the Boy Scouts' right to make a stance, he would not want his own progeny involved in such an organization.
"I'd rather my grandchildren be a part of an organization that sees the greater picture. I would want them...in an organization that is inclusive."
Cochran, 48, will marry his longterm partner in April. He was married for many years to a woman and didn't come out as a gay man publicly until he was 38.
He said lifting the ban on gays in the prominent organization for young boys and men would be "just another step taking kids out of having to hide who they are."
The Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts released the following statement:
"While the National Board continues its discussions, I promise that the Atlanta Area Council will continue to provide the best Scouting program to as many youth in Atlanta as possible. This is an important and complex national issue, but we cannot allow a policy debate to negatively impact the quality of the program we deliver to our Scouts. They are counting on us."
Non-religious-affiliated donors have vocalized to the BSA that they will pull funding of the organization if the ban continues.
However, many others who sponsor Boy Scouts want the ban to remain.
While the Boy Scouts' national executive board deliberated changes to allow gays for three days at the organization's headquarters, hundreds supporters rallied outside with signs that read "Don't invite sin into the camp" and "Homosexuality is a sin! BSA please resist Satan's test. Uphold the ban."
Reports, such as this one from the Associated Press, show that about 70 percent of all Boy Scouts are sponsored by religious denominations, which could completely gut the organization if they decide not to renew their sponsorships. This post from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution states that Mormons sponsor the most Boy Scouts in the nation, followed by Methodists and then Catholics– all three groups have traditionally supported the ban on gays in the organization because it lines up with their religious doctrine that homosexuality is a sin.
However, others in and around Atlanta, like southwest Atlanta Scoutmaster Donald Wheat said he believes homosexuality is a sin and will leave the Scouts after 46 years as a leader if the ban is lifted.
Wheat said, that, for him, the issue is a matter of morals and standing up for his beliefs. He said that the admittance of gays into Boy Scouts would mean support of homosexuality, which he said is counter to his Christian faith and to the Scout’s Oath, which requires Scouts remain “morally straight.”
“Either you’re going to take a stand one way or the other. As much as I would hate to give it up, I’m going to stand if I stand by myself,” Wheat said.
What do you think? Should the Boy Scouts of America lift its ban on gay members and leaders? Tell us in the comments below.