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A lot of support to lift the ban

Local Boy Scouts say historic vote to admit gay youth is a non-issue


For newly-minted Eagle Scout Christian Geddes, last week’s historic vote to admit gay Boy Scouts wasn’t a cause for concern — or celebration.

The Century High senior felt that lifting the ban was late in coming and didn’t go far enough. by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Groves large ceremonial flag is hoisted into place Monday by local firefighters and Boy Scouts. Delegates to the Scouts national convention voted May 23 to admit openly gay youth to the century-old organization.

An overwhelming majority of those in his Scouting group, Troop 855, he said, “either don’t care or (were) in favor of the resolution.”

Geddes earned a coveted Eagle Scout rank in April, the same month he turned 18. That, in part, is why he has mixed feelings about the May 23 vote, in which 61 percent of the 1,460 delegates to Boy Scouts of America’s annual convention in Grapevine, Texas, voted to allow openly gay Scouts into the system for the first time.

Because the new policy, which will go into effect next year, applies only to youth age 7 to 17, it means that now that he’s an adult, he could be excluded if he were gay.

“I think it’s absurd that a leader could be disqualified because of his sexual orientation,” said Christian, an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 855. “Boy Scouts is becoming progressive a lot slower than the rest of our culture. We can learn so much from people with different backgrounds and different perspectives.

“This is a very well-intentioned proposal, but it doesn’t go far enough.”

‘It’s a good program’

Likewise, Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin, whose Troop 213 is sponsored by the Forest Grove Noon Rotary Club, thought the BSA’s decision was beside the point.

“I’m OK with it, sure,” he said last week. “I’m a huge supporter of Scouting, and I don’t think it matters if a boy matures and realizes he’s gay.

“The bottom line is, it’s a good program. It builds the youth leadership of the future.”

Dalin, who has held leadership positions within the regional Cascade Pacific Council of the BSA, including a stint as Tuality District chairman, emphasized that Boy Scout programs “are designed to be youth-led,” lessening the significance of the watershed vote even more.

His sons Kody, 16, a Glencoe High School student, and Robyn, 13, who attends Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, are both members of Troop 213.

Last week’s vote “will have no effect on our troop at all,” Dalin said, pointing out that Rotary included a non-discrimination clause in its sponsorship documents.

Christian Geddes’ troop, which is sponsored by Trinity Lutheran Church in Hillsboro, has never made heterosexuality a standard for membership.

“Individual troops, ours included, had already basically repealed the ban by ignoring the [former] national policy,” noted Christian, whose father, Bill, a Hillsboro insurance agent, led his Cub Scout group years ago. “There was a lot of support to lift the ban.”

The elder Geddes, who grew up in Aloha, has led or helped lead Scouting groups for Christian and his younger brother, Chase, also a Century student, “since the boys were 11 and 12,” he said. Bill and his wife Darlene “opened the door to Scouting to give them opportunities to learn new things.”

While Chase, at 16, is still “more shy than Christian,” Bill noted, Scouting has “made a real difference for both of them” — allowing them to meet professionals in various fields and helping them learn to interact with adults.

It’s also exposed them to forestry, science and the great outdoors.

“It’s about young men learning to be leaders,” Bill said.

He expects the BSA’s new policy on young gay members to create a variety of reactions as individual as the packs and troops the national organization serves.

“There will be some who’ll take it as an opportunity to wave the rainbow flag,” said Bill. “And there will be other groups who won’t tolerate young homosexual Scouts.”

For Troop 855, though, it won’t mean a thing.

“We have an absolute nondiscrimination policy through our sponsor,” said Bill.

He believes a groundswell of support for admitting gay adult Scout leaders is just around the corner.

“My thinking is it’s only a matter of time before the ban on gay leaders is lifted as well,” he said. by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO - Boy scouts look on at the bugler on Memorial Day.

New boys’ organization?

While representatives of the Mormon Church, the United Methodist Church and the Catholic Church — all prolific troop sponsors — said they wouldn’t separate from the Boy Scouts in the wake of last week’s vote, at least one socially conservative group was decrying it.

Leaders of OnMyHonor.net, a coalition of Scouting gay-ban supporters linked to the National Christian Foundation of Tampa, Fla., announced they planned to meet in Louisville, Ky., next month to “discuss the creation of a new character development organization for boys.”

Todd Smith, Scoutmaster of Troop 516, which is sponsored by the Evergreen Ward of the LDS Church, said he was “not at all surprised” by the decision of Mormon leaders to stick with the BSA.

“The church has always been one to work with (Scout) members who have homosexual feelings or are gay,” Smith said.

Matt Devore, Scout executive and CEO of the BSA’s Cascade Pacific Council, which governs 80 troops in western Washington County’s Tuality District, said seven delegates participated in last week’s convention in Texas. He doesn’t know how they voted, but indicated his own support for the policy change.

“Approval of this resolution by volunteers from around the country is indicative of the interest in making Scouting available to a greater number of youth,” Devore said.

As a brand-new adult involved in Scouting, Christian Geddes is grateful the topic is finally out in the open. And he’s hopeful the tectonic plates pushing such societal movement will shift even further.

“I’ve seen multiple instances of homosexual members who haven’t reached Eagle Scout due to discrimination,” said Christian, who plans to attend the University of Oregon next fall and major in political science, with an eye toward a career as a defense attorney.

“I’d like to see that change ... I really value justice.”



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