WASHINGTON – The national debate over admitting openly gay members and leaders into the Boy Scouts is hitting closer to home as local residents weigh in on the issue. Some welcome the organization’s announcement that it will delay making a decision until May, while others lament the postponement.
“To exclude a whole group of potential members from participation based on sexual orientation is unfair,” says 29-year-old D.C. resident John Dewar. “It reflects poorly on the organization.”
But others welcome the opportunity to study the issue further.
“I hope the ban stays in place because it’s a private organization,” says Maryland Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster Jimmy Williams. “We have the Supreme Court on our side, and we would like to maintain morality.”
For Dewar, defining that morality as inclusive exemplifies the best of the Boy Scouts, he says.
“I’ve heard a lot of parents who don’t want their kids to be in that type of environment because of the ban,” he says. “Even if their kids aren’t gay, they don’t feel the values are in sync with what they would like their kids to be grown up with. ”
Dewar was one of those kids who spent his childhood in the Boy Scouts. He joined around the age of six and climbed through the ranks to eventually become an Eagle Scout at the age of 18. As he was transitioning into an elevated role within the BSA, he was also coming to terms with his own homosexuality.
Despite the ban on gays, Dewar says he never felt uncomfortable.
“My values as a person were shaped by the Boy Scouts and being gay had absolutely nothing to do with my experience there,” he says.
“Gay kids are everywhere and the more accepting we are of that, the less damage [we will see] with suicides and other issues.”
Williams disagrees. For him, the issue is more about a private organization’s right to set its own rules and policies.
“I feel like a lot of the pressure is coming from minority interests trying to assert themselves onto the majority,” he says.
Williams has been outspoken about his support of the ban. He signed an online petition and sent a letter to the national council urging them to not change the current policy.
He is worried that his own unit, Troop 617 in Columbia, Md., could lose sponsorship from the Christ Episcopal Church, which currently provides them with a place to meet and store their equipment.
“If they drop us, then yes we have a program that lets gay members in, but then we don’t have a sponsor … and then we don’t have a group,” he says.
Now that the Boy Scouts of America has postponed making a decision until its May meeting, the University of Maryland student plans to make phone calls and continue lobbying the organization to maintain its current policy.
WTOP’s Andrew Mollenbeck contributed to this report.Follow @MollenbeckWTOP and