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Support grows for gay Scouts

Local Boy Scouts and officials from the Redwood Empire Council are applauding an effort to partially repeal the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay Boy Scouts, but say it does not go far enough.

The national organization is preparing to vote on a resolution, released in April and set to go before the approximately 1,400 voting members of the BSA during the national meeting the week of May 20 in Texas, that says no young person should be turned away from scouting based on sexual orientation. However, it keeps in place a ban on gay troop leaders, as well as involvement by gay parents.

“While it's a step in the right direction, it's disappointing to hear that they aren't just lifting the ban altogether” said Steven Cozza, a former professional cyclist and Petaluma Eagle Scout who has been fighting the Boy Scouts' ban on homosexuals since 1997 when he was only 12 years old. “It's complete insanity — in this day and age — that people are still shunning gay people.”

After hearing numerous complaints about its longstanding ban on openly gay participants, BSA leadership conducted a study to test the waters on possibly reversing the policy, which was adopted in the 1970s. But as a private group largely funded by religious organizations — primarily the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — BSA officials have struggled with the potential loss of support from conservative organizations heavily involved in the Scouts.

Conservative backers have threatened to pull their support and membership if the BSA completely lifts its ban on gay participation, though just last week, the Latter Day Saints announced that it supported allowing gay Scouts to participate, agreeing that no child should be turned away from scouting.

While there is growing support for allowing young gay Scouts into the organization, there is much less support for allowing gay adult members to participate. After conducting the nationwide survey in February, the BSA estimated that allowing gay adults' participation in the organization would cause up to 350,000 of the current 2.6 million youth members to drop out.

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