Updated: March 2, 2013 6:37AM
The Boy Scouts of America may accept gay members and gay scout leaders under policy changes being considered by the group’s leadership.
A formal announcement on the issue could come as early as next week, a spokesman said Monday.
The change would leave it up the organizations that sponsor Scout programs to decide whether to accept gays. Because more than one-third of Scout programs are sponsored by religious groups that oppose homosexuality, it is unlikely those programs will accept gay members.
The contemplated change in policy is encouraging to Rob Breymaier, 42, of Oak Park, who returned his Eagle Scout pin — Scouting’s highest honor — last year to protest the ban on gays.
“I would probably rejoin, and I would want my pin back,” Breymaier said. “My pin was being sent to them for safekeeping until they made the right decision.”
Breymaier, who is not gay, created an alternative group, Ranger Scouts, that doesn’t discriminate against gays.
“If this is what I think it is, that at the national level there will no longer be a discriminatory policy, yes it would allow me to return,” he said. “And allow my son to join.”
Charles Dobbins, CEO of Boy Scouts of America’s Chicago Area Council said he had been given a heads up on the possible change but had not been consulted. “We will support any decisions they come up with,” Dobbins said.
The Boy Scouts, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010, has long excluded gays and atheists. A spokesman said a change in the policy toward atheists was not being considered, and that the group continued to view “duty to God” as one of its basic principles.
Protests over the no-gays policy gained momentum in 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the group’s right to exclude gays. Scout units lost sponsorships by public schools and other entities that adhered to nondiscrimination policies, and several local Scout councils made public their displeasure with the policy.
More recently, amid petition campaigns, shipping giant UPS Inc. and drug-manufacturer Merck announced that they were halting donations from their charitable foundations to the Boy Scouts as long as the no-gays policy was in force.