Group Protests Scout's Gay Policy


Tuesday, August 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


IRVING, Texas (AP) — Corey Brunson wants her 4-year-old son to join the Boy Scouts in a few years — but only if the organization alters its anti-gay stance.

``This judgmental attitude and discrimination is going on, and I don't think this is right,'' she said. ``I reject the notion that this is a private organization. It couldn't survive without public support.''

Brunson joined about a dozen marchers Monday who delivered a 55,000-signature petition to the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, near Dallas. Similar rallies were planned in front of Boy Scout offices in 36 cities in 21 states.

Protesters said they were looking for a conversation and not a confrontation over the organization's policy barring homosexuals from its ranks.

``We're disappointed,'' Dave Rice, a former Scout leader who marched in Irving. ``We don't like confrontation. We like to sit down, shake hands and discuss a solution that's mutually beneficial.''

Despite the public pressure, the Boys Scouts weren't budging from their position on gays.

Gregg Shields, spokesman for The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said homosexuality runs counter to the oath requiring Scouts to be ``morally straight.''

``We recognize the rights of all people to hold opinions different than ours,'' he said. ``We stress that we are a private organization and that no one is forced to be a Boy Scout. People who share our values and beliefs are welcome to join.''

In June, the Supreme Court agreed, ruling 5-4 that the group was allowed to bar homosexuals.

Scouting For All, a nonprofit organization, helped organize and coordinate the nationwide protests. Its founder, Steven Cozza, 15, of Petaluma, Calif., said he started the group several years ago after his father was removed as a Scout leader for supporting gay rights.

``Scoutmasters are people to look up to. What's wrong with being influenced by a gay man? Someone's sexuality has nothing to do with his character or personality,'' Cozza said.

Cozza, who said neither he nor his father is gay, left the Boy Scouts about six months ago after becoming an Eagle Scout.

Not all support Cozza's efforts.

Nick Henderson, a Boy Scout leader in Dallas, said he thinks homosexuality is a sin and supports the scouting policy.

``We don't want them in a position of leadership,'' he said. ``We're not against gay people; just their lifestyle. Would they be a bad influence on a scout troop? Absolutely.''

In San Leandro, Calif., about 20 people walked outside the Boy Scouts' San Francisco Bay area office, chanting and toting signs saying ``Blatant Bigots'' and ``True leaders teach love and tolerance, not hate and bigotry.''

``I'm not here to be disrespectful to the Boy Scouts of America. But we can't be silent,'' said Jan Tyler, a Bay Area Cub Scout leader. ``Gays and lesbians are in every niche in our society, and to exclude them based on sexual orientation is ludicrous.''

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On the Net:

Boy Scouts of America: http://www.bsa.scouting.org

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund: http://www.lambdalegal.org

Focus on the Family: http://www.family.org

Scouting For All: http://www.scoutingforall.org