Boy Scouts of America poised to reverse ban on gay scouts

Opponents in Tampa say it will destroy scouting

TAMPA - The Boy Scouts of America is poised to make a historic change next week by allowing openly gay boys to join or remain in the program.

On such a divisive issue there are strong feelings in both camps.

"Scouting has a set of moral values that has remained unchanged for a hundred years. This resolution as we see it today would change that," said Greg Roe, a father and scout leader.

On Friday, Roe gathered a small group of scouting supporters outside the Gulf Ridge Council headquarters  urging the defeat of a national resolution that would admit openly gay scouts.

"Homosexuality is inconsistent with the core values of scouting.  It's coming from a biblical world view," said former Eagle Scout Thomas Whitaker.

Openly gay Hillsborough County Commissioner and former Boy Scout Kevin Beckner disputes that.

"Everything was about service and commitment to God and country.  You can love your God and fulfill your commitment to the country whether you're gay, straight, black or white. It doesn't make a difference," said Beckner.

Beckner believes it's time to end what is in effect, a 'don't ask, don't tell 'policy in the Scouts pointing to the repeal of the same policy in the U.S. military in 2010.

"It really didn't change the effectiveness of our our troops and if you talked to those in the military, it's really increased the morale," said Beckner.

The proposed policy change would admit gay scouts, but still excludes gay scout leaders.  Opponents of the resolution like Thomas Whitaker are sure it would just be a matter of time before that restriction would fall as well.

"When an Eagle openly gay reaches 18 years old and becomes an adult and wants to stay on as a leader, all he's got to do is go in and they're going to force that as well."

The Mormon church is the largest sponsor of Boy Scouting in America. They came out in support of the change allowing openly gay scouts. The majority of other Christian churches oppose the change.

Delegates will vote at the National headquarters in Texas on Thursday May 23.

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