Gay group asks schools to sever ties with Scouts

Associated Press

CHICAGO — A gay-rights advocacy group plans to lobby school districts across the country to stop sponsoring Boy Scout troops unless the organization reverses its ban on gays.

The initiative is a centerpiece of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s annual conference, which began Friday in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights.

M.K. Cullen, the group’s public policy director, said the goal is to end the "unique and special access" the Boy Scouts get to schools.

"The Boy Scouts can present in someone’s homeroom, they can get the school lists of students, they can have posters in the halls," she said. "It’s a very unique, special access that most other clubs do not enjoy, and at the same time they are a discriminatory club."

The organization has been urging schools to shift support from the Boy Scouts to other youth groups, such as 4-H or the Boys and Girls Clubs.

The new effort, to be presented Sunday, is in response to a Supreme Court ruling in June that upheld the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay troop leaders. That decision may also give legal backing to the organization’s rejection of gay boys as members.

The Scouts, with 6.2 million leaders and participants in programs for boys and girls, contend that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the organization’s values.

"We recognize the right of people to disagree with us and disagree with our positions. We simply ask those people to have tolerance of our values and our beliefs even though they differ from theirs," said Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America.

A New York City school board voted last week to bar its 42 schools from sponsoring troops. And education officials in Davis, Calif., told the Boy Scouts last year that they could no longer send notes home with students or use bulletin boards to recruit members.

The American Civil Liberties Union also is attempting to bar schools, military bases and other publicly funded groups from sponsoring Boy Scout troops. A federal lawsuit filed last year argues that because Boy Scouts must take a religious oath, public funding should not be allowed.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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