Boy Scouts gay issue getting attention in SWGA

ALBANY, Ga. -- The announcement earlier this week that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was considering lifting its ban on gay members has sparked interest in Southwest Georgia, but any impact won't be determined until a decision is made, regional officials say.

Matt Hart, scout executive for the South Georgia Council, said there has not been any backlash in the area on the proposal, but there have been a number of phone calls and comments from people across the spectrum, some of whom, he said, seem to have been misinformed on the issue.

"Some folks have believed it was already a done deal," Hart said. "The policy they are discussing is strictly regarding sexual orientation. Some have thought that there are other restrictions up for discussion; that is not the case."

The impact of such a move on the public and sponsorship is not likely to be fully known until a decision is reached, he said, and no one knows what the organization is going to do.

Once the proposal has been acted on, officials say it will be the task of local councils to communicate with the public they serve to make sure people are clear on what any change -- if there is one -- means.

"Once a decision is made, we will have a (period) of several months to meet with the interested parties so they know (what the ramifications are)," Hart said. "Whenever a decision is made, we will make sure families (and the community) know the facts."

A media statement issued by Deron Smith, director of public relations for BSA, on Monday stated:

"For more than 100 years, Scouting's focus has been on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.

"Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.

"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs."

The BSA's national executive board is expected to discuss the matter at its regularly scheduled board meeting next week in Texas. Hart noted it was possible that the board would not immediately act on the issue.