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Former Scout Leaders Opposed To Gay Ban Say 1.4 Million Back Them

Bill Zeeble

Former Boy Scout leaders say they've turned in more than 1.4 million petition signaturesdemanding the Boy Scouts of America end its policy banning gay scouts and leaders. The national organization, based in Irving, might consider a change this week, but that’s unclear.

Greg Bourke was an assistant troop leader in Kentucky for years. He says he was respected by scouts, leaders, parents, even the church that sponsored the troop -- until he came out of the closet and was forced to quit last year.

I would like to know what it is they don’t like about me and what they’re afraid of," he says. "I pose no harm to anyone. I’ve passed all background checks. I’ve been through youth protection training a million times. I’ve done everything they’ve ever asked me to do.”

As a parent of a Cub Scout who's now a Boy Scout, Bourke still leads Boy Scouts and adults on campouts and trips. He just can’t do so officially, because the Boy Scout organization says, as a gay man, he’s unqualified to lead. That makes no sense to him. Bourke has been honored by Kentucky’s Legislature for his leadership, and he’s a respected Girl Scout leader. (That organization has no gay ban.)

Despite demands from Bourke and others to end the gay ban, some current and former scouts, including Gov. Rick Perry, want the the policy left alone.

“Scouting is not a place where sexuality should be the intersection," Perry said. "Scouting is about teaching a substantial amount of life lessons. Sexuality is not one of them. It never has been, it doesn’t need to be.”

The Boy Scouts of America national executive board is meeting in Irving this week  and could consider revising or changing its gay ban. Reports suggest the ban might be left up to individual troops. But so far, officials won’t say if the item is even on the board agenda, and it also offered no comment on the petition signatures.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.