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Reaction 'quiet' on gay Scouts decision

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Leaders who work with five West Virginia Boy Scout councils believe Scouting organizations will largely continue with business as usual even after strong debate on both sides about accepting gay Scouts.

Members of regional councils across the U.S. voted Thursday to allow openly gay youths to join the Boy Scouts of America.

Jeff Purdy, Scouting executive for the Buckskin Council headquartered in Charleston, said the national organization's vote, which included more than 1,400 volunteer leaders and passed with more than 60 percent approval, was part of a varied and enthusiastic debate during the organization's national convention in Grapevine, Texas.

"There was a lot of discussion before the vote was made and a lot of passionate [Scouts] who had a variety of opinions," Purdy said.

Although the atmosphere at the convention was contentious, Purdy said the tone remained respectful.

"There was a sense of closure at the national meeting where all sides came together on the last day," Purdy said.

Bob Drury, scouting executive for the Ohio River Valley Council based in Wheeling, said only time will tell whether the change in policy is a favorable step for the Boy Scouts.

"I cannot judge it based on the current feedback I've received, which is pretty nominal," he said. "I think time will determine whether this is a good decision for the Boy Scouts or not."

Similarly, Purdy has received communications from some parents or members of the community who support the decision and some who oppose it.

"Obviously many people have strong opinions on both sides of the issue," Purdy said.

But Drury said public feedback regarding the decision has been sparse in his region.

"Honestly, it has been very quiet -- quieter than I had anticipated at this point. It could be that people are trying to develop intelligent feedback prior to responding," he said.

Dale Musgrave, scouting executive for the Allohak Council, which serves 17 counties in West Virginia and Ohio, said that most of the more than 200 Boy Scout councils across the country abide by the same bylaws outlined at the national level.

Musgrave added that the organization's continued exclusion of gay adult leaders is still firmly part of its policies.

"The Scouting policy is pretty clear that youth members will not be denied membership on the basis of their sexual orientation," Musgrave said. "Adult leaders can still be excluded. It seems pretty clear to me by the policy."

For now, Purdy said he could not speculate on whether the ban on gay adults will remain in place for long.

But despite continued controversy over the ban on gay adults, Purdy emphasized that the Boy Scouts now hope to move forward following last week's decision.

"We're just looking forward to continuing the good work of Scouting," Purdy said.

In fact, Purdy's region has enjoyed four years of uninterrupted growth. Now, the Buckskin Council has begun to focus on continuing to expand the base of young people who belong to the Scouts, Purdy said.

Musgrave echoed Purdy.

Although he remains unsure about how the decision will impact regional councils and individual Scout troops, he believes that the Boy Scouts will continue to foster the same values.

"How it might have an impact on our council, I really can't say," Musgrave said. "People still want to be involved in Scouting, and I believe we will still do the good work of our organization."

Musgrave reasserted that the mission of the Boy Scouts has not changed.

"We are in the business of providing an outdoor program with character development and adventure, and that's what we're going to continue to do," Musgrave said.

Reach Laura Reston at laura.reston@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100. Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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