Power-Hitting National Board Member Speaks Out; Activists Smell Huge Victory

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Boy Scouts of America may be about to change their policy on allowing gays to join the organization.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided years ago the organization has the right to keep gays out because it’s a private organization.

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But as CBS 2’s Lou Young reported Wednesday, it also has the right to change its mind.

The news came from deep inside the Boy Scouts organization. A national board member who is also the CEO of the giant accounting firm Ernst and Young said he wants the Boy Scouts to lift their ban on gays, 10 years after the Supreme Court upheld the organization’s right to discriminate.

Board member James Turley said publicly, “I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts; however, the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse. I intend to continue to work from within the BSA board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress.”

For gay rights groups that have been fighting the Boy Scouts ban for years, it smells like imminent victory.

“That tells me that America is ready for a change and now the Boy Scouts have to own up to their own members and their own volunteers,” said Rich Ferraro, vice president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The internal debate at the Boy Scouts has been prompted by the case of Jen Tyrell, a lesbian mother in Ohio banned from being her 7-year-old boy’s Cub Scout leader.

Nearly 300,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the Boy Scouts change their policy. Locally, though, scout officials do not seem anxious to air any part of that internal debate publicly.

“We’re proud of our program. It’s not really an issue for us. I gotta run,” said William Kelly of the Putnam-Westchester Boy Scout Council.

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And that was that.

On the street, those willing to talk about lifting the ban have a positive take on the idea.

“I think it’s a long time overdue, yes,” said Andrew Wiecek of Garwood, N.J.

“Just being gay doesn’t impede your ability to tie knots or do any of those intrinsic Boy Scout things. It doesn’t make sense,” added Tucker Luftus of the Upper West Side.

However, the sentiment is far from unanimous. Some scout leaders Young spoke with said they have misgivings about changing the policy, and worry about the impressionable boys in their troops.

Gay activists say their point is that some of those boys might have gay parents at home who want to participate or are gay youngsters, themselves, staying in the closet in order to stay in scouting.

Activists calling for change include 20-year-old Eagle Scout Zach Wahls of Iowa, who is urging people to let their feelings on the matter be known to national Boy Scout board members.

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