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How Bellevue's driving the Boy Scouts' gay policy

The Boy Scouts gay policy decision will be contentious -- and led by a Mormon Eastsider.
Wayne Perry, Boy Scouts of America National President

Wayne Perry, Boy Scouts of America National President Photo: Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America decided today to put off voting on a proposal to end a longstanding ban on gay members and leaders. A vote may come in May, when the national board meets next. Whatever eventually happens, there'll be plenty of criticism to go around.

(Disclosure: I am an Eagle Scout, and gay, and have written for Crosscut before on the topic.)

Further, however the board eventually votes — or doesn't vote — the person leading the discussion will have deep Seattle-area ties: Wayne Perry, national BSA president.

Baseball fans may know Perry as part of the ownership group that purchased the Mariners. He's a University of Washington alumnus and member of the Washington State Bar. Having spent a successful career in telecommunications, he now runs private equity firm Shotgun Creek Investments, based in Bellevue.

Perry, like all members of the BSA's national board, is a volunteer. He helps set policy that the BSA's employees and many volunteers carry out. Right now, one such policy is to exclude openly gay members and leaders (as the BSA says, "avowed homosexuals"). That policy could change to give deference to the choices of the churches and civic groups that sponsor units (Boy Scout troops, Cub Scout packs, Venture crews) to allow or not allow gay members.

If the policy changes, it would be particularly interesting under Perry's presidency.

"I believe that homosexuality is morally wrong," he said last Friday, during a conference call to local BSA council leaders. Perry, a Mormon, spent the call explaining how the proposed policy change came about, but didn't take questions from council leaders or media.

The call represents the most public communication by the national BSA leading up to today's meeting. Requests for interviews or more information haven't been fulfilled.

Perry discussed several factors driving the proposed policy change, the most prominent of which is religion.

Churches make up close to 70 percent of organizations that sponsor BSA units. While many, like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which accounts for nearly a third of units), actively seek to uphold the gay ban, others don't. That's one big part of the discussion, according to Perry.

On the conference call, Perry also pointed to larger societal factors driving the discussion, including the military ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and three states, including Washington, having voted to allow same-sex marriage. He noted that both President Obama and Mitt Romney, his fellow Mormon and a former national BSA executive board member, support ending the gay ban.

All these factors, Perry said, led to "a great deal of inquiry from our scouting family" about ending the ban.

They also, apparently led to today's decision to postpone the vote. It appears those who wanted the executive board to delay, which included the Mormon-dominated Great Salt Lake Council, got what they wanted.

Perry ended the conference call to council leaders last week by assuring them the board is made up of people committed to "the scouting movement."

"The U.S. needs the Boy Scouts now more than ever in its history," he said. That history may include a vote down the road to end a national ban on gays. Or it may not.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Perry supported the Boy Scouts ban on gay scouts. 

 

Scott Leadingham is the Director of Education at the Society of Professional Journalists and is the Editor of Quill, SPJ's magazine. He lives in Spokane, Washington. Interact on Twitter: @scottleadingham


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Feb 7, 10:04 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm guessing that the philosophical divide may be too great and they will have to split into two separate groups. Hopefully they have enough in common to share the national camps together.

Posted Thu, Feb 7, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

As a former Scoutmaster for five years, Eagle Scout, and father of an Eagle Scout, I strongly support the policy change.

-Tom Ranken

Posted Mon, Feb 11, 5:19 p.m. Inappropriate

You cannot possibly be serious unless of course you are a homosexual.

brerfox

Posted Mon, May 13, 10:48 p.m. Inappropriate

brerfox...you must be about 70-75 years old and are trying to hold onto your old hate. Hate is ugly, unproductive, and embittering. If you are a Christian man, hate does not emulate Jesus/God. If you don't like what gays do, fine...nobody is asking you to be gay. If gay is wrong, let God sort it out, you are not God. God will sort you out though.

What a way to lead your golden years. You have a short time here on earth...how you are wasting it on all this hate. When it comes time to leave this earth, it won't really matter what you think though, life marches on.

Just to let you know (since you seem to be stuck in the last century) calling someone a homosexual or gay is not really an insult these days unless the individual in question is actually straight. So if you are calling someone a homo, homosexual, or gay and they are straight...then it defeats the purpose of your tirade (and your credibility.) Actual gay people often refer to themselves as homosexual, homo, or gay...it is not a slur to them because that is what they are.
Perversion is not limited to gay people. Plenty of straight perverted men abused many cub and boy scouts over the last 50 years.

You probably have been friends with gay people and didn't even know it. They just knew they couldn't tell you, but they were still gay. It has been estimated that 5-10% of the world is gay...odds are you already know someone that is gay or are related to them. No, they are not out to convert you...that would have probably succeeded already if they had that power.

And no, I am not gay (pretty sure of that), but I know several gays and lesbians and I consider them friends. They have never tried to convert me either (nor my wife and three kids.)

bigC

Posted Thu, Feb 7, 1:14 p.m. Inappropriate

As the mother of an Eagle Scout, I strongly support changing the policy so that it is decided by the local troop and their chartering organization. This discriminatory policy has meant that many of my son's friends were not allowed to join Scouts because their families would not support a bigoted organization. If our family hadn't had such a strong Scouting background (my father was a Scout and is a leader, both brothers are Eagle Scouts, I was a 1st class Girl Scout), I wouldn't have allowed my son to join either. We decided to stay in Scouts and work to bring change from the inside. It is time for the Scouts to enter the 21st century and to quit allowing the Mormons to dictate who can be a Scout. It was when the Mormons essentially took over Scouting that this abhorent policy was implemented. Before that time, no one cared.

Rhonwyn

Posted Fri, Feb 8, 11:22 a.m. Inappropriate

As an Eagle Scout growing up in the 1950's - whose mother would not give up on him until he attained that rank - I can safely say that sexuality was never an issue. The issue was where to go camping. "Gay" or "straight" would have made no difference as long as you could set up a good camp, cook a decent dinner, and tell interesting stories around the campfire. I agree that "the policy" should change. The tragedy is that there is a "policy" at all.

Posted Mon, Feb 11, 5:24 p.m. Inappropriate

Again a liar. Gay meant happy not perverted we never used the word "gay" for perversion of those days.

I was a scout in th e 50s and false your claim is just plain from the pits of hell.

brerfox

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