Advocates Say If Local Units Have Autonomy, Discrimination Could Still Exist

MONTCLAIR, N.J.  (CBSNewYork) — After years of criticism, the Boys Scouts of America is considering something it hasn’t done in its 103-year history — welcoming gay scouts and leaders.

Although it is a potentially seismic shift, some believe it may not go far enough.

The Boy Scouts of America is embracing its own motto of “be prepared” when it comes to changing with the times and it’s opposition to gay members.

“I’m surprised there’s even a ban on gays being in the Boy Scouts,” Sean Bowen of Montclair told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.

In the organization’s century-plus history, gay scouts and leaders have never been accepted. But now, the national office said it’s reconsidering “the restriction regarding sexual orientation.”

“It’s progress,” said Troy Stevenson, the Executive Director of Garden State Equality.

But advocates like Stevenson feel it’s not enough because the Boy Scouts said its “chartered organizations would accept membership” based on their own “principles or religious beliefs.”

“They’re kicking the can down to the local level so that discrimination can still exist but it’s not necessarily written into their national policy,” Stevenson said.

Meantime, conservatives said the Boy Scouts buckled to bullying in allowing gays.

“I think it’s a sad day for America,” said Rob Eichmann of the group Conservative New Jersey. “It’s a slap in the face to traditional American values, traditional American morals.”

So far, scout leaders are tight-lipped about the possible change.

“We’ll be prepared to respond after the vote is done and be prepared to act appropriately,” said Northern New Jersey Council Scout Executive Stephen Gray.

Gray, who has been with the scouts for 33 years said he did believe it was time for the ban to be lifted.

Many parents felt the same at a middle school in Montclair.

“I think they should lift the ban,” said Joanne Bloomstein.

The about-face highlights how quickly attitudes on gay rights are shifting and comes as the honorary leader of the boy scouts, President Barack Obama, has made it clear that people of all sexual orientation be treated equally.

National Boy Scout leaders meet and make their decision early next month.

Would the possible change to allow gay scouts and leaders be a positive step or does it not go far enough?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below…