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Boy Scouts vote to allow gay scouts

A Boy Scout wears an Eagle Scot neckerchief during annual Boy Scouts Parade Report State House Chambers Texas State CapiAustTexas.February.

A Boy Scout wears an Eagle Scot neckerchief during the annual Boy Scouts Parade and Report to State in the House Chambers at the Texas State Capito in Austin, February. File Photo. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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Updated: June 25, 2013 6:43AM

The Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to allow gay scouts into its ranks.

The move ends a ban that’s existed throughout the organization’s 103-year history, but the reversal does not extend to openly gay adults, who are still not allowed to serve as scoutmasters or participate in other leadership roles.

It’s a partial fix, say some critics.

“I think it’s impossible to explain to a kid who works his way though scouting and turns 18 and then all the sudden he’s not allowed to be part of the organization,” said Rob Breymaier, who returned his Eagle Scout medal to the Boy Scouts to protest the policy. “That’s ridiculous and absurd. I don’t know how the Scouts are going to explain it,” said Breymaier, 42, a civil rights activist who lives in Oak Park.

“It’s a step in the right direction but far from the equality they need to embrace. I think they’re only doing it because of the enormous pressure they’re getting from the youngest generation, which is very pro-equality,” said Andy Thayer, 53, an Uptown native and co-founder of Gay Liberation Network.

“But it’s no coincidence that the two institutions with the most serious problems with sex abuse as of late — the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts — have been the two institutions at the forefront of opposing equality for women and people of different sexual orientations. If you can’t have an honest and egalitarian discussion about sexual orientation and gender, you can’t very well deal with these abuses within your institutions.”

Conservatives denounced the change.

Pete LaBarbera, a Naperville native who heads up Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, a group that opposes the normalization of gay culture, thinks the move marks the beginning of the end for the Boy Scouts.

“I think this ultimately could be their downfall,” said LaBarbera, 51. “I know there are going to be competing organizations that will form and will be more conservative and wholesome that will not allow homosexuality, and parents will migrate to them,” he said.

LaBarbera believes the group ended the ban out of fear of losing corporate donations.

“This will probably lead to openly homosexual scoutmasters as well. It just doesn’t fit with the traditional wholesome morality associated with scouting, and the membership will ultimately decline because of this.”

H. Charles Dobbins, CEO of the Boy Scouts’ Chicago Area Council, issued a statement Thursday reading in part, “We believe this update to our policy will allow all kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting to experience this life-changing program while remaining true to the long-standing virtues of Scouting.

“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. We believe good people can disagree and still work together to accomplish great things for youth. Going forward, we will work to stay focused on that which unites us.”

Scout leaders from the Chicago area were among the more than 1,400-plus members of the group’s National Council that voted on the measure Thursday in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, after growing pressure to adopt the measure. No one from the Chicago contingent was available for comment Thursday.

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