Scouting shouting match

ABC 13 Eyewitness News
by Jeff Ehling
(8/21/00) -- Some Houstonians angry over the Boy Scouts ban on gays are taking part in a nationwide protest of the organization.

 The Boy Scouts of America teaches its members, in part, to have a keen respect for the basic rights of all people. But a group of protesters says the organization is not living up to that example.

The protest in front of the Boy Scouts' office on Bagby was not very large, only a handful of people, but it is part of a nationwide effort to get the scouts to allow homosexuals and atheists to serve as troop leaders.

 Bruce Reeves spent sixteen years inside the Boy Scouts organization.

 Bruce Reeves/Protester: "I joined as a Cub Scout at the age of seven or eight, became a Boy Scout at ten and a half, became a leader at the age of 18, and when I was 24 I was asked to leave."

 When this former Eagle Scout announced he was gay, the Boy Scouts asked him to leave the organization he'd grown to love.

  Bruce Reeves/Protester: "It was really a very painful and frustrating process. It was something that once I came out I knew it was a matter of time."

 The pain of exclusion is something these protesters and others across the country are trying to stop.

 Sue Null/Protester: "The Boy Scout goal is to provide worthy activities for young men to help develop self esteem and to help develop character, and then to tell a small group of people, `You are not worthy. You are not valuable. We don't want you. You don't fit our goals.' This is dehumanizing to a person."

But the Scouts have the nation's highest court in the corner. In a statement released nationally the Scouts say, "The Supreme Court has already ruled that the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, must have the right to establish its own standards of membership."

 The ruling is isn't stopping a grass roots effort to change scouting. A petition with 55,000 signatures was delivered to the Scouts' national office, and simultaneous protests were staged in twenty states.

 Bruce Reeves/Protester: "Hopefully the public will help to change that opinion."

 Monday's protests around the nation stem in part from a decision by the US Supreme Court saying the Boy Scouts of America can prevent homosexuals from serving as troop leaders. The court said forcing the scouts to accept gay troop leaders would violate the organization's right of free expression.

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