Boy Scouts of America is considering changing its longstanding policy against allowing openly gay members, according to a news release from the organization Monday.
Under the change now being discussed, local Councils would be able to decide for themselves how to address the issue — either maintaining an exclusion of gays or opening up their membership.
Monday's announcement of the possible change comes after years of protests over the policy — including petition campaigns that have prompted some corporations to suspend donations to the Boy Scouts.
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In Sept. 2012, Framingham Patch reported more than half of the parents of Cub Scout Pack 12, based out of Plymouth Church under Pack Leader Jim Been, sent a letter to the executive director of Knox Trail Council of Boy Scouts, based in Framingham, stating they have and will continue to ignore the anti-gay policy of Boy Scouts of America.
That letter, submitted and signed by 38 Framingham parents states: "Our Scout Pack has been an important and powerful force in our community, and in the lives of our children, parents and guardians who have been involved. Pack 12 has taught us that being a Scout means being inclusive, supportive and standing up for what you believe in. We do not and never will discriminate on the basis of race, religion and sexual orientation. Pack 12 invites the participation of all interested 6- to 11-year old boys and their parents or guardians, without regard to sexual orientation. We urge the Knox Trail Council to adopt a similar stance on behalf of all of the MetroWest area districts."
In Oct. 2012, the Knox Trail Boy Scouts Council Board of Directors met and considered taking action against the National Boy Scouts anti-gay policy. The Council represents Framingham and 20 other communities in Massachusetts. No decision was ever announced. And in Dec., the Council's Executive Director retired.
Recently, Brian Dingman, President of the Knox Trail Council sent a letter to Scout volunteers. In it he wrote, "The Knox Trail Council welcomes all families to participate in Scouting and benefit from our positive youth development program. Working together we can accomplish much: we are committed to delivering the best Scouting program to youth, their families and the communities of MetroWest Boston."
Deron Smith, a spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement Boy Scouts of America is discussing potentially removing the national organization's restriction, allowing membership and the selection of scout leaders to be determined by local chartered organizations "consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs.
The Boys Scouts, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010, has long excluded both gays and atheists.
Last year, the BSA "emphatically reaffirmed" its policy of excluding gays as both leaders and Scouts, according to the Associated Press.
Smith told CBS News a change in the policy toward atheists was not being considered, and that the BSA continued to view "Duty to God" as one of its basic principles.
Boy Scouts of America is expected to take up the issue at is national board meeting next week.
Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls said "this would be an incredible step forward in the right direction."
Wahls, who's is a blogger for Huffington Post, is quoted as saying. "We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in Scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well.”