Boy Scouts approve plan to accept openly gay boys

MORAGA, Calif.

"This is what we've been working for," former Boy Scout den mother Jennifer Tyrell said. "It's a small step in the right direction but it's huge in another way."

Of the 1,400 local Scout leaders who voted on the change, more than 60 percent supported the proposal.

The organization was under pressure from gay rights activists who urged the Boy Scouts to drop the ban. Conservative groups fought it, threatening to cut funding to local troops.

Under the proposal drafted by the Scouts' governing board, gay adults will remain barred from serving as Scout leaders.

In the Bay Area, the reaction to the BSA's decision varied widely from jubilation to disgust. It's a move many here have been fighting for, for years. But some fear a backlash could come as a result.

Moraga is really ground zero for this discussion. It's where, late last year, a gay Boy Scout was rejected just as he was about to earn the rank of Eagle. It's also a place, where, no Thursday, his supporters found a big reason to celebrate.

"Awesome!" said Casey Leonard.

Leonard is an Eagle Scout, and he's gay. The 18-year-old from Walnut Creek told ABC7 News he's thrilled with the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to accept all Scouts like him. But he sees it only as a partial victory.

"The policy for adult leaders like myself remains unchanged," Leonard said. "I am still not allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts of America as an openly gay adult leader."

"It's a huge step in the right direction, and it's been such a long time," said Moraga Scoutmaster Wendell Baker.

The vote also came as a huge victory for Wendell and his 15-year-old son Matthias.

"It makes scouting a whole lot safer for the youth, for the boys," Wendell said. "They can say who they are, they don't have to worry about getting kicked out."

The Bakers have supported the resolution since last fall when Moraga's openly gay Scout Ryan Andresen was rejected in his bid to become an Eagle Scout.

Matthias thinks BSA's decision is good for all Scouts.

"One of the values is kindness and being fair to everybody," he said. "And now we can do that effectively."

Thursday's outcome, however, is unlikely to end a bitter debate over the Scouts' membership policy.

"We quit the Boy Scouts," parent Cynthia Herrmann said.

The Concord resident says the BSA's inclusion of gay Scouts means her longtime scouting family is out.

"We don't feel that that program would be the right one for our family anymore," Herrmann said. "So we will be pulling out and our pack and our troop have already voted and we will all be pulling out."

"I didn't sign up to be a sex counselor," Walnut Creek resident Bruce McIntosh said.

The longtime Scoutmaster says he too will bow out if the organization becomes something different from what it's been. And he insists it has nothing to do with homophobia.

"Scouting is a program for children and what we are now doing is focusing attention on the sexual orientation and the sexual preferences of children," McIntosh said.

The Walnut Creek attorney is still deciding whether to stay with scouting.

Others have already decided that with Thursday's major decision, they will break away from the Boy Scouts of America and form their own organization.

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