Gay Scout leaders not an issue here, so far, leaders say

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Frank Schultz
July 30, 2015

Monday's decision by the national Boy Scouts organization to allow gay Scout leaders has caused no immediate fallout among local Scout troops, said Scouting officials contacted Thursday.

The ruling by the national organization allows local sponsoring organizations to make their own decisions based on their own beliefs.

Alex Tyms Jr., an executive with Glacier's Edge Council, said he hasn't heard of any local troop sponsors deciding not to accept gay leaders, and he has not heard of parents pulling their children out of Scouting.

Glacier's Edge Council covers 17 counties in south-central Wisconsin, including Rock and Walworth counties. Some Scout leaders in those counties referred questions to Tyms.

The area also includes parts of two Illinois counties and represents 275 Scouting organizations with 7,200 children participating.

Paul Romanelli is an assistant scout master for Good Shepherd Lutheran-sponsored Troop 516 and also is involved with Cub Scout Pack 429 at St. John Vianney Church, both in Janesville. He said he has not heard from church leaders on the subject but isn't sure there will be any negative reaction.

When the national organization decided to allow gay Scouts in 2013, there was no big increase or decrease in Scout numbers, Romanelli said.

“I would think if there was going to be a big push-back, it would have come previously when they voted to change national policy banning all gays, and we didn't see that,” Romanelli said.

Romanelli has not heard of any shakeups from leaders of other Scout groups around the area.

Pastor Jim Melvin of Janesville's First Lutheran Church, which sponsors a troop, said he hasn't heard any negative reactions from parents.

Melvin said the troop would welcome a gay leader.

“I can't speak for our local Scout leaders, but I think they would probably say the same thing as well,” Melvin said.

“We have a very inclusive policy at our church towards, gay, lesbian and transgender people, so that (policy) would apply there,” Melvin added.

Because the decision is so recent, “I think honestly what is happening is a lot of our leaders are listening and consulting among their leaderships,” Tyms said.

Tyms said the reactions he has heard are divided, with some happy and others disappointed, but none so disappointed that they would abandon Scouting.

Those who are disappointed are pleased the decision is not a national mandate and that local control remains and local beliefs are respected, Tyms said.

Tyms pointed to the 2013 decision to abandon the policy that banned “avowed homosexuals” from Scouting.

Tyms said there was little fallout locally from the 2013 decision, and he thinks the local organization's history argues the latest decision will not be a major issue, either.

“In the 10 years that Glacier's Edge Council has existed, not a single person has been put out of Scouting over this issue,” he said. “It's been a non-issue.”

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