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Area Scoutmaster says delay in gay policy decision welcome

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 6, 2013 at 10 p.m.

A local Scoutmaster said Wednesday that the Boy Scouts of America's delay in deciding on whether to open the door to gay membership gives the organization time to answer troubling questions.

Troop 259 leader Tony Raymond said he isn't happy with what he's heard.

"I don't believe homosexuality is OK," Raymond said. "And I'm not going to join an organization that says that that's OK. ... We don't appreciate people coming into the organization saying, 'We want to join your organization, but we want to fit it to suit us.' "

Meeting in Irving this week, the national organization had been poised Wednesday to vote on a policy that would have allowed local troop sponsors to decide whether or not to accept gay members.

That would have been a loss for both sides of the debate that Raymond said he thought had been settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000. That year, the high court upheld the Scouts' right to ban gay membership under the free association clause of the First Amendment.

"No, nobody's happy with this decision," said the Scout leader in Liberty City and Sabine. "If they lift (the ban) per chartering organization, nobody's happy."

Chartering organizations are the churches, service clubs and other groups that sponsor individual troops, such as Grace Baptist Church does for Raymond's troop.

Raymond said those in favor of lifting the ban are dissatisfied with allowing chartering organizations to maintain local bans. And those who oppose gays in Scouting don't want to see homosexual Scouts at Jamboree or other national events even if individual troop bans are allowed.

"Grace Baptist Church is not going to change policy, and Troop 259 is not going to change policy," Raymond said. "But, what happens when we go to (Boy Scout) summer camp? That's what they are going to do is see if they can answer some of those questions (by May)."

At least two local lawmakers sounded off Tuesday in opposition to lifting the ban.

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, and Mineola Republican Rep. Bryan Hughes were among 40 elected officials, most of them House Republicans, who signed a letter to the Scouts urging them to uphold the ban.

"Perhaps some people advocating this one way or the other haven't thought of the ramifications," said Simpson, who was not a Boy Scout. "The legality of a private organization to ban homosexuals for leadership was upheld back in 2000."

Simpson defended the quasi-governmental intrusion into the private organization's decision-making.

"Sometimes, people look to elected officials, because they represent a lot of people, to express what they believe," Simpson said. "So, to me, we didn't (intrude). We are leaders, and so we were just expressing that thought: this is a worthy organization, and it's worthy as it's been operating for decades."

Hughes was in a day-long meeting of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday and was unavailable for comment.

Republican state Reps. Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches and Chris Paddie of Marshall did not sign Tuesday's letter.

"I strongly and staunchly support the historical position of the Boy Scouts in this issue," Clardy said, indicating support for the Scouts' position against gay membership as well as its right as a private club to set its own policies. "I am an Eagle Scout; all four of my sons are Eagle Scouts. We have a long history of Scouting in our family, and our world would be a lot better off if all these young men would subscribe to the Scout Oath and the Scout Law - and, of course, always 'be prepared.' "

That last phrase is the Scout Motto.

Paddie also expressed support for Scouting.

"I admire the family values and life skills that they have instilled in countless young men," Paddie wrote in a statement to the News-Journal. "I see no reason for the Scouts to change their position."



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