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LEAD Forward,Toge


After a long, thoughtful process, BSA members AMEND the organization’s longstanding membership standards for youth. BY GRE TCHEN SPARL ING • PHOTOGR A PHS BY W. GARTH DOWL ING


IN A DIM BALLROOM, nearly 1,400


volunteer voting members of the Boy Scouts of America—and about 1,000 additional onlookers—collectively hold their breath. Just a day earlier, the room echoed with the sometimes- tense vocalization of voting members’ opinions regarding a resolution set to amend the BSA’s membership stan- dards for youth. National President Wayne Perry


cuts the silence. “Whatever this says”— he pauses, raising the results envelope in front of his green Venturing uniform—“we have to come together. We love this movement. The BSA is too important to let anything in this envelope divide us.” The conclusion and the most-


anticipated moment of the 2013 National Annual Meeting? After a


careful count by third-party firm TrueBallot, 61.44 percent (or 757 members) vote in favor of the resolu- tion amending the BSA’s membership policy, removing the restriction excluding youth based only on sexual orientation. The adult membership- standards policy excluding gay leaders was not under review and therefore remains in place. The results announcement takes


a split second, but this was not a split- second decision. The vote embodies a months-long review of the BSA’s membership standards, which involved a respectful and open dis- cussion among registered members, parents, and youth. This family dis- cussion guided the BSA’s officers in drafting a resolution to amend the organization’s membership standards. And now, the feedback gathered during the earlier stages of this process remains relevant as adult volunteers and parents work to adapt to this his- toric change, effective Jan. 1, 2014.


MANY OF THE THOUGHTS expressed during the BSA’s survey period paral- lel those shared during the three-day meeting. At an information session the day before voting opened, the BSA’s Key 3 took the stage. Perry, Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock, and National Commissioner Tico Perez each took time to discuss his


30 S COUTING ¿ SEPTEMBER•OCTOBER 2013


personal feelings of conflict and his conclusions. Perry described his own arduous


decision-making process. He then commended the BSA’s historic “com- prehensive listening” effort, which included a wide-ranging survey process with registered volunteers and parents, Scouting alumni, as well as youth—both current members and nonmembers. It’s through this thoughtful polling that the BSA officers gauged the majority opinions shared by those influencing and deliv- ering the Scouting program. Among the discoveries, perhaps


the most notable is a question posed in the Voice of the Scout survey, which gathered responses from registered volunteers and parents. The scenario asked: Would it be acceptable to deny an openly gay Scout an Eagle Scout Award solely because of his sexual ori- entation? The overwhelming response was “no.” While respondents expressed support for the longstanding mem- bership-standards policy for adults, the survey reflected that these members were less likely to agree with removing a Scout from the program solely based on sexual orientation, as opposed to his behavior. The polling also found that,


among parents under 50, support for the current membership policy had waned. Additionally, parents, Scouts,


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