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Gays May Join Boy Scouts, But Still No Gay Leaders

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Boy Scouts of America. (AP)

Boy Scouts of America. (AP)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — The Boy Scouts of America will accept openly gay youths starting on New Year’s Day.

It’s a historic change that’s prompted the BSA to ponder a host of potential complications — ranging from policies on tentmates and showers to whether Scouts can march in gay pride parades.

Yet despite their “be prepared” approach, BSA leaders are rooting for the change to be a non-event.

Dave Rice of Petaluma first became a Boy Scout in 1941 and would remain an active leader in scouting for 59 years.

Everything changed in 1981 when a young man was kicked out for being openly gay. Rice felt the ban was wrong and began speaking out.

In 1998, Rice received a letter asking him to step down.

It would be some 15 years before the National Council removed the ban on gay scout members.

The new policy was approved in May, with support from 60 percent of the 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council. The vote followed bitter nationwide debate, and was accompanied by an announcement that the BSA would continue to exclude openly gay adults from leadership positions.

Rice says the new policy as only half a victory because of the continuing ban on gay scout leaders. He says change has to happen to keep the organization from withering away.

Meantime, some churches are dropping their sponsorship of scout units because of the new policy and some families are switching to a new conservative alternative called Trail Life USA. But massive defections haven’t materialized and most major sponsors, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, are maintaining ties.

Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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