St. Louis Protesters Rally Against Allowing Gay Boy Scouts: "We Are Not Out To Discriminate"

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Protesters are staging a rally in St. Louis today urging the Boy Scouts of America to reject a policy change that would allow openly gay members.

Linda Briggs-Harty, a Brentwood mother who will be attending the rally, tells Daily RFT, "We are not out to discriminate."

She says, "We are talking about open and avowed homosexuality and the risks that come with that kind of shift."

What are these "risks," and how is her cause not a discriminatory one?

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The local rally will take place at noon today at the Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America at 4568 Pine Boulevard. It is part of a national effort that OnMyHonor.Net, a "coalition of concerned Boy Scouts of America (BSA) parents, Scoutmasters, Eagle Scouts and other Scouting leaders," is organizing. There are more than 40 planned rallies across the country, the group says in a news release.

Earlier this year the Boy Scouts of America announced it was reconsidering its ban on gay members -- and the BSA's national council, made up of 1,400 members, will vote on May 23. The resolution on the table would maintain the gay ban for adult leaders, but get rid of restrictions based on sexual orientation for youth seeking membership.

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In a statement to Daily RFT, full version below, the Greater St. Louis Area Council notes that it follows the policies of the national organization and says, "We value the freedom of everyone to express their opinion. We teach our members to be courteous and respectful at all times." It says that, regardless of disagreements, the council remains focused on its common scouting goals and adds that the proposed resolution "does not, in some way, prevent kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting from experiencing this life-changing program."

Gay-rights advocates argue that the change would still be discriminatory given that LGBT adult leaders would remain banned (meaning gay members would have to leave once they become adults).

And protesters who don't want any change to current restrictions also seem to agree that allowing gay youth -- and not adults -- is an inconsistent policy.

The OnMyHonor.Net group says in an open letter:

The proposed BSA resolution is logically incoherent and morally and ethically inconsistent. Under the proposed change in policy, open homosexuality would be officially consistent with the Scouting code throughout a Boy Scout's life until the moment he turns 18, when it suddenly becomes a problem.

The letter, full copy below, goes on to make much more controversial comments, saying that allowing openly gay members will "inevitably create an increase of boy-on-boy sexual contact" and lead to the "tragedy of countless boys who will experience sexual, physical and psychological abuse."

Briggs-Harty says she's worried about "ethical and legal" problems with the proposed policy. The reform, she and other critics argue, would open up the organization to litigation from gay members and supporters who want to stay on as adults.

"We are not making statements on people's personal choices," she says, later adding that she is not trying to make people feel unwelcome and is also against any sort of bullying.

Continue for more of our interview and the full response from the St. Louis Boy Scouts.

"The Boy Scouts are being pressured to change by certain factions, but there are plenty of other factions within the Boy Scouts [who disagree]," says Briggs-Harty, a former Cub Scout den leader, whose sons have been members of the Boy Scouts at different times. Her husband is also a leader.

She says it's a concern of religious freedom to her as well. "It increasingly makes it tough for people of faith to speak out about things they believe."

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She says that she does know people who support the policy change.

"It's a really emotional issue, and we understand that," she says. "It's very much a divisive issue."

Here's the full statement from the Greater St. Louis Area Council of the Boys Scouts of America to Daily RFT:

• We value the freedom of everyone to express their opinion.

• We teach our members to be courteous and respectful at all times.

• Recently, the Boy Scouts completed the most comprehensive listening exercise in its history, gathering perspectives from inside and outside of the Scouting family.

• Based on this feedback, the Boy Scouts of America wrote a resolution for consideration which maintains the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America and would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. This resolution does not, in some way, prevent kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting from experiencing this life-changing program and to remain true to the long-standing virtues of Scouting. The 1,400 voting members of the National Council will vote on this proposal on May 23.

• Some people involved in Scouting and other have expressed their disagreement with this single policy, or this proposed change, in a variety of ways. We respect everyone's rights to express an opinion, and we believe our disagreements are minor compared to our shared vision and common goals. While people have different opinions about this policy proposal, they can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, we will work to stay focused on that which unites us.

• Our Council follows the policies of the Boy Scouts of America.

And the letter from OnMyHonor.Net.

Open Letter to BSA Delegates Apr 29 2013

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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