PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A controversy over a gay Eagle Scout in
Rhode Island has prompted a local chapter of the Boy Scouts of
America to acknowledge publicly that a Scout can be a homosexual --
as long as he doesn't advertise it.
Gay-rights advocates say the case suggests the organization may
be relaxing its ban on gays, even as it prepares to protect it in
the nation's highest court.
"It sounds to me like the Boy Scouts are in retreat," said
Mary Bonauto, an attorney with the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and
Defenders in Boston. "They acknowledge the sexual orientation of
their members is none of their business."
The statement -- similar to the military's "don't ask, don't
tell" policy toward gays -- was issued by the Narragansett Council
of the Scouts, which said it was approved by and written in
consultation with the Scouts' national organization. A spokesman
for the Boy Scouts of America referred all calls to the Rhode
The statement reaffirmed the Scouts' position that being gay is
"inconsistent with" the oath all Scouts must take in which they
vow to be "morally straight" and "clean in thought, word and
Still, the statement suggested that Scouts who are covertly gay
won't be pushed out, by specifying that the organization "does not
accept those who openly self-identify as homosexuals."
The statement said the manner in which the Scouts learn a member
is gay takes precedence over whether his sexual orientation
violates a national ban on gay Scouts.
The statement resulted from consultations over a 16-year-old
Eagle Scout who contended he was discriminated against because he
is gay and who threatened legal action.
Peter Reid, a member of the Narragansett Council executive
board, on Wednesday said the statement is intended to ensure the
teen remains a Scout.
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that the Boy Scouts'
ban on gays is illegal under the state's anti-discrimination laws.
The Boy Scouts are appealing that decision to the U.S. Supreme
(Copyright 1999 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)