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Boy Scouts of America may drop ban on gay members

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Albany/HV: Boy Scouts of America may drop ban on gay members
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Boy Scouts of America is discussing an end to a longtime ban on openly gay members. The reversal may come as early as next week. YNN's John Wagner reports.

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Poughkeepsie's Stephan Hengst enjoyed his time as a Boy Scout, earning merit badges and learning life lessons. But as an adult, he's offended that he's not welcome back to contribute as a scoutmaster.

"You're a gay man so you are not someone that should be a positive example. That idea has gone away and society realizes that," said Hengst, co-founder of BigGayHudsonValley.com. "Just because someone's gay or lesbian doesn't make them any less of a person."

Amid pressure, dwindling membership and corporate donations, Boy Scouts of America officials are considering overturning their national policy on sexual orientation.

"Preparing people for the skill sets they're going to need to be successful tomorrow is really what the organization is all about, so you might as well acclimate them to the new normal we live in today," said another former Boy Scout Patrick Decker, also a co-founder of BigGayHudsonValley.com.

Under the proposed change, the religious and civic groups that charter each local troop would choose for themselves whether to allow gay leaders and members.

"It also would allow families to choose between different organizations based on what fits their own thoughts, their own beliefs better," said Russell Etzenhouser, scout executive for Boy Scouts of America.

"The subject of sexual preference is best left to the parents and to priests and pastors and not to the scouting organization," said Ron Edick, a Poughkeepsie scoutmaster.

Edick believes the current approach, with no box to check for sexual orientation, is best, saying the outdoors, service to community and leadership training should remain their only focus.

"I think it's a distraction from the mission of scouting," said Edick. "Scouting is not meant to get involved in all of this."

But others praise the move as the 103-year-old organization's first step toward welcoming today's values.

"For an organization that's always celebrated the moral compass and building boys into strong men, there's no reason why gays shouldn't be included in that," said Stephan Hengst.

A decision is expected from Boy Scouts' national council on February 6th.

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