SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 11, 2012

Scout pack denounces anti-gay policy

Beverly group issues statement welcoming all families

BY PAUL LEIGHTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — BEVERLY — A Beverly Cub Scout pack has publicly rejected the Boy Scouts of America policy that prohibits homosexuals and has issued a statement extending membership “to all families in our community.”

“We have been and will always be open and affirming, and will never turn our backs on a child or adult that seeks to embrace the core values found at the heart of Scouting,” Pack 4 Cubmaster Tony Gangi said.

The Beverly pack is at least the second Boy Scout organization on the North Shore to publicly oppose the national organization’s policy banning openly gay members or volunteers. Marblehead Cub Scout Pack 79 issued a similar statement in August.

Gangi said the pack’s adult leaders decided to take a stand after the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its long-standing policy banning gays in July.

The pack’s committee, which has 11 members, voted unanimously to reject the policy last month. This week, the committee issued its own “statement of inclusion,” saying the benefits of Scouting “should be available to all children and their families, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

The committee members are all volunteers and parents of Cub Scout Pack 4 members, Gangi said.

“It kind of started when one of the committee members said, ‘If they were excluding African-Americans, we wouldn’t be part of this organization or we would take a stand,’” Gangi said. “That statement made us want to take a stand.”

Gangi said the parents knew that, by making a public statement, they were risking getting kicked out of Boy Scouts or having the pack’s charter revoked by the national organization.

“You don’t want to pull that away from your son. It gets very personal,” Gangi said. “But it taught our sons a very valuable lesson. Rarely do you have the chance to teach your children a lesson like this. It’s always taught in hypotheticals. This is happening in the real world, in real time.”

Gangi said the committee’s decision to speak out was not prompted by a specific case involving Pack 4. He said he has friends who are gay, and “I want to be able to look them in the face and look at myself in the mirror in the morning.”

Pack 4 has about 45 boys in first through fifth grade. The pack meets at the Second Congregational Church in North Beverly.

Gangi said he was a Cub Scout growing up in Pennsylvania and values the lessons that Scouting teaches.

“But a lot of people have said, ‘I don’t want my son in an organization that is discriminatory.’ We want people to know that, at least on a local level, we aren’t.”

The Boy Scouts’ policy on homosexuality resurfaced over the summer when the national organization completed a two-year examination of its membership standards. In July, the Boy Scouts of America said it will continue to deny membership to “individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

The decision prompted several Eagle Scouts to turn in their badges in protest and local Scouting organizations to speak out against the policy.

An official from the Yankee Clipper Council, which oversees Scouting in northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, said he could not comment on Beverly Pack 4’s statement because he had not seen it.

During the controversy over the summer, the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement saying the organization “welcomes all who share its beliefs but does not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path.”

Matthew Lloyd, one of the leaders of Marblehead Cub Scout Pack 79, said the group has not heard directly from regional or national Boy Scout officials since it issued a statement in August against the “policy of discrimination.”

“We’ve had nothing but extremely positive remarks from the community within Marblehead,” Lloyd said. “People have been very supportive of our stance and the fact that we are willing and eager to open the ranks for Scouting to all those that should be involved.”

Lloyd, whose 10-year-old son is a member of Pack 79, said he and his two brothers are Eagle Scouts and that Scouting has been an important part of his life. He said a growing number of packs are speaking out against the national policy.

“We’re hopeful that the Boy Scouts of America will recognize the significance of what they’re doing and be supportive of our desire to conduct our own actions on a local scale,” he said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.