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Boy Scouts Starts Allowing Gay Members

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) - The Boy Scouts of America are breaking from a century-old rule on Wednesday. Over the summer, the organization voted to allow openly gay scouts. That rule change takes effect with the new year. While the Irving-based Boy Scouts will be accepting gay members in 2014, they will not allow gay leaders.

This has been a controversial decision every step of the way, and has led some former members to create their own organization called Life Trail USA. It is nearly identical to Boy Scouts except for its stance on gay members. So far, around 750 boys in the DFW area have signed up for Life Trail USA.

“Seeing the organizational change, it’s difficult for me and many others,” explained Ron Orr with Life Trail USA. “We’ve spent a lot of time and are considering where we go next.”

“For every parent or church that turns their back on the organization because of this decision,” said Eagle Scout Todd Camp, “there are going to be twice as many people welcoming them with open arms.”

The Boy Scouts of America wants this to be a smooth and quiet transition. In a statement, the organization explained that it expected no major changes to the delivery of the scouting program as a result of the policy change.

“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in scouting. We’re pleased that the overwhelming majority of our members, families and chartered organizations remain committed to the Boy Scouts of America,” said Deron Smith, BSA public relations director.

Former scout leader, Dave Rice, was involved in scouting for nearly 60 years and has seen the effects of the ban on openly gay scouts.  In 1981, he saw a young man kicked out of scouting for being openly gay.  Rice says he realized then the scouting policy was wrong.

“My wife said to me, if you were in a professional position in scouting, you’d have to be enforcing this exclusion…and I realized at that point, that that was wrong.”

Rice was among the people who fought for the policy change that takes effect today.

But, not everyone is convinced the change in scout policy is needed.  Eli Hernandez, who is gay and conservative, has been speaking out against the policy change.  He says the boys in scouting have become tangled in a larger national agenda for gay rights that they should not be involved in.

“I believe the scouts caved to the liberal agenda. I think it was a wrong decision to allow gay scouts.  And again, a child doesn’t go into the scouts to be straight or gay.  They go into the scouts to be scouts,” said Hernandez.

There are 2.6 million youth members of the Boy Scouts of America.

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