Tonawanda News — The announcement of the organization’s proposal last week comes after almost a year of discussion. Last summer, the BSA reaffirmed its ban on gay scouts and scoutmasters after an internal review of the policy. But the organization was quickly criticized by activists, like Wilcott, who said the process was internal and secretive. Several sponsoring companies and other organizations that support the nonprofit have stopped donating — or threatened to stop giving to the Boy Scouts — over the policy
National leaders then relented and decided to release surveys to scouts and their parents to obtain feedback on the policy.
“It was a big step forward for them to actually step forward and ask for opinions,” Wilcott said. “It was nice because people on both sides of the issue were able to be heard.”
The Greater Niagara Frontier Council also actively sought to get feedback from local members through emails, letters and phone calls. The body also held three meetings to allow scouts and their families to express their opinions on the issue.
“Our charge is to represent the local consensus,” Russell Etzenhouser, scout executive for the Niagara council said. “We have received a very diverse set of opinions, and very passionate ideas on both sides. Some say we ... need to change this right away, while others say we should hold on strong to our core values and not give in to change. Finding a common ground is the challenge of the situation.”
In a statement released last week, the BSA said the survey results were also varied — with some supporting the change, and some strongly against it. But the majority of respondents agreed that youth should not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, according to the BSA.
Some church organizations and conservative groups expressed concern about allowing gay adults to be leaders in the organization, however, and the proposal reflects respondents’ opinions, the BSA said.