Utah group to start Boy Scout troop welcoming gay leaders

Tuesday , August 04, 2015 - 3:01 PM

By LINDSAY WHITEHURST
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah group that backed the fight to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage is preparing to start a Boy Scout troop, though activists said Tuesday that getting it off the ground could be an uphill battle in the conservative state where the majority of troops are affiliated with the Mormon church.

Mark Lawrence with the group Restore Our Humanity said he’s not sure if everyone in the state is ready for the end of the blanket ban on gay leaders announced July 27.

But Lawrence said welcoming them could create new interest in the organization, and he has already heard from several potential volunteers, including doctors, police officers and a rabbi.

“I think it’s important for us to do this now,” Lawrence said at a news conference. Organizers are looking for volunteer leaders and potential Scouts, and they plan to complete an application in the coming weeks. They are hoping to have a troop up and running by the fall.

While the lifting of the ban prompted some gay Eagle Scouts around the country to rejoin the movement, the reaction was different at the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Leaders at the nation’s largest sponsor of Boy Scout units said they were deeply troubled by the decision and are considering breaking away to form their own worldwide scouting organization. Church officials have said they will meet later this month to discuss their next steps.

Lawrence said that he was involved in Scouting when he was younger, but he left because he felt excluded. The new Salt Lake City-based troop would be welcoming to a wide range of people, especially those from minority groups, he said.

Scouting is an important place for boys to learn outdoor skills, teamwork and leadership, Utah activist Charles Frost said. “I learned how to be a leader, largely due to scouting,” Frost said.

But the ban on gay leaders has kept some churches away from involvement in Scouting, said the Rev. Curtis Price with the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City. “That particular strain on the relationship has ended with this decision,” he said.

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