Boy Scout Rift Now Possible Over Homosexuality Ban

July 7, 2008 - 7:03 PM

New York City ( - The Greater New York chapter of the Boy Scouts of America has 120 more days to "review their policies" about allowing homosexuals to serve in leadership positions.

The move is seen as a pressure tactic by the New York City Council to convince the local chapter of the Scouts to back away from the homosexual ban that was established by BSA national headquarters and legally ratified by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer.

The eventual outcome, however, "could lead to a permanent rift between the Boy Scouts of America and its New York troops," according to a board member of the New York Boy Scouts, who asked not to be identified,

At stake is whether the 130,000 member strong New York chapter will be able to continue using government-owned buildings, free of charge, for its meetings. Monday, the City Council, charging that the Scouts had violated the city's human rights law with its ban on homosexuals, debated whether to sever ties with the organization. Such a move would force the Scouts to conduct massive fundraising in order to rent new locations for their meetings.

The face-off in City Council chambers showed New York City's mostly democratic council members wanted to send a strong message to the Boy Scouts.

The hearing was to, "Investigate the nature and extent of the resources and special support the Boy Scouts of America receives from the City of New York and/or its uniformed forces, and explore whether such resources would be better spent on organizations that do not discriminate based upon sexual orientation."

Dan Gasparo, the Chief Executive Officer for the Greater New York chapter, told the council, "The programs of the Greater New York Boy Scouts do not discriminate. We are not a hate group."

Gasparo, in a prepared statement, recited the accomplishments of the Greater New York chapter, along with his belief that the Boy Scout Oath does not discriminate. He did admit, however, there may be a "difference of opinion between the national order and the New York chapter." If so, this could mark the first public split within the organization, over the policy involving homosexuality.

"While we are working with our national organization to address their interpretation,
our (the Greater New York chapter) interpretation of the standards has been, and continues to be, based upon a person's compliance with the values in the Scout Oath and Law, not in a person's sexual orientation," Gasparo said.

Patrick Stuhlman, spokesman for the Greater New York chapter of the Boy Scouts, says the city "has agreed to postpone any decision for 120 days so the Boy Scouts can review their policies." It appears both the New York chapter and the City Council believe a compromise can be reached.

Calls to the national Boy Scouts of America headquarters have not been returned.

The City of New York doesn't directly fund any Boy Scout programs, but the organization's subsidiary Explorer troops and Learning for Life groups meet on city property and are often led by police officers, correction officers and firefighters.