Philadelphia Scouts council backpedals on pro-gay policy

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com June 14 2003 12:00 AM ET

Reversing a pro-gay nondiscrimination policy that was issued last month, Philadelphia's Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America has declared that anyone who acknowledges being gay may not participate in the Scouts. "Applications for leadership and membership do not inquire into sexual orientation," reads a new position statement from the council, the nation's third largest. "However, an individual who declares himself to be a homosexual would not be permitted to join Scouting." The council runs Boy Scout programs in Philadelphia and two suburban counties.

The local council's position statement was attached to a tersely worded memo sent this week to Boy Scout executives across the country. "As a condition of their charter, no local council is permitted to depart from [Boy Scouts of America] membership policies," chief BSA executive Roy L. Williams wrote in the memo. David H. Lipson, chairman of the executive board of the Cradle of Liberty Council, said the council had discussed its nondiscrimination policy with the national council. The local council passed the policy in part because the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which funds some Scout programs, does not allow antigay discrimination. Lipson said the national council participated in the discussions but would not publicly back the nondiscrimination policy. "We thought we had a deal," Lipson told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "We thought we won this major victory, and we were all happy." Philadelphia Scout officials said that soon after the policy was adopted, the national council threatened to revoke the council's charter and replace its board. "We're taking some major hits for standing up for change," Cradle of Liberty executive William T. Dwyer III said.

Earlier this week Greg Lattera, 18, an openly gay scout who had won a top employee award at the Boy Scout camp where he worked, went public with a letter he received from the Philadelphia council rejecting his application to be a Scout leader. The council gave no reason except to say that the group can reject a person when there is concern that he doesn't meet the Scouts' "high standards of membership." Lattera said he will work within the Boy Scout organization to fight the rejection, though he has hired an attorney.