San Francisco Council Changes Policy on Gays (Article from
Ed Henderson (BigEdBSA@AOL.COM)
Wed, 11 Dec 1996 10:16:32 -0500
This was a lead story on CNN this morning. I thought everyone might be
FROM THE San Francisco Examinar Web Site, Wed. Dec. 11th
San Francisco Scouts let gays belong
Quiet policy change aims to regain funding from United Way
By Larry D. Hatfield OF THE EXAMINER STAFF
The San Francisco Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts has quietly adopted a
more lenient policy
toward gay members and leaders, putting it in apparent conflict with the
national Scouts but positioning it to try to win back United Way and
corporate funding cut off four years ago.
The national Boy Scouts of America opposes allowing homosexual members or
leaders, and in the past it has expelled gays. A spokesman in Irving, Texas,
where the Scouts have their headquarters, said that policy was unchanged. But
the Bay Area Council has adopted a policy that
doesn't call for the expulsion unless the Scout or Scout leader engages in
public homosexual conduct or advocacy.
"This is a very difficult issue," said Steve Barnes, the former military man
who took over as the local council's chief executive officer last year. "What
we've done is define where and when we'd take action. "If you come into our
program and you are interested in conduct or advocacy, then we will not
However, the Bay Area Council's new policy on sexuality, marked "confidential
(and) not intended for public release," doesn't bar membership for simply
being homosexual and forbids Scout officials from investigating a member's or
leader's sexual orientation.
The policy was crafted by San Francisco business leader and Scout board
member Stephen Bechtel Jr. and was passed by the council's board in an August
meeting, sources said. Avoiding "politics of the day' "The Boy Scouts of
America does not ask prospective members about their sexual preference, nor
do we check on the sexual orientation of boys who are already in scouting,"
the policy says. "We allow youth to live as children and enjoy scouting and
its diversity without immersing them in the politics of the day.
"The Boy Scouts of America has always taught youth the traditional values of
scouting families. Accordingly, we do not allow for the registration of
members or as leaders those whose public conduct or advocacy does not suggest
these traditional values."
Barnes said, "In this program, we judge people on the content of their
character and their behavior. We need to be asexual as well as apolitical. .
. . We're here to serve kids. We're here to serve all kids."
Rejecting the idea that the policy was a version of the military's "don't
ask, don't tell" policy, Barnes said, "Sexuality is an adult issue. We don't
think kids should be part of that. Most of these kids are Cub Scouts, aged 8
to 11, and there's nothing appropriate about anybody having a discussion with
an 8- or 11-year-old about sexuality.
"And the politics (of the debate over gay rights) is not something we should
get involved in." Bechtel was unavailable for comment, and the Boy Scouts of
America spokesman in Irving referred The Examiner's inquiry to local Scout
officials. "They said OK' Asked about the national Scouts' reaction, Barnes
said, "We've communicated with the national office that this is our policy
interpretation, (and) they said OK. Each council is independent, and (its)
executive board has
the responsibility to set policy for that council."
The Bay Area Council has some 32,000 Scouts and 5,500 leaders in San
Francisco and Alameda County, except for Piedmont and the city of Alameda.
Some or all of the other six Scout councils in the Bay Area apparently have
been approached about adopting similar policies, but none has acted yet,
sources said. None of the Scout councils in the Bay Area receives United Way
The United Way cut off nearly $500,000 in annual funding to Bay Area councils
in 1992 because of the Scouts' anti-gay policies. Several major corporations
- Levi Strauss, Bank of America and Wells Fargo - subsequently cut off
funding as well.
Tom Ruppanner, president of United Way of the Bay Area, had a careful
response when asked whether the Bay Area Council's new policy would restore
"The United Way of the Bay Area accepts requests for grants on a year-round
basis, selecting for grants organizations that help build healthy and safe
"We have no position relative to the San Francisco Council of Boy Scouts of
America because we have no application for a grant from that organization
pending at this time. If such an application is received, the request for
funding would be addressed in a timely manner. "The door is open."
Ruppanner said individual United Way donors had pledged $344,457 to the Bay
Area councils this year, $75,334 of it to the San Francisco council. Scouts
to seek funding Sources said the Scouts were preparing a funding request for
the United Way and that early indications were that it would be favorably
United Way board member David Wharton, who is gay, said Barnes "represents a
different attitude about scouting and participation in scouting by gay and
lesbian participants and program leaders. How far he's been able to spread
this attitude up the chain of command isn't clear.
"We're desirous of having all agencies in the Bay Area conform with our
non-discrimination policy. Given his overture to us, we have talked with him,
but it hasn't
been taken any further than discussions.
"This is a promising leadership initiative by Mr. Barnes. And we are
interested in rebuilding the bridge to the Boy Scouts. This is promising
revisitation of a tough
issue. Where it goes is unknown."
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City