Update: The Boy Scouts voted today to allow gay youth to participate. 61 percent of the voted in favor.
Cue the trumpets and fanfare: today might be the day when the Boy Scouts of America finally cross into 21st Century. Sure, it's a little belated. For the last few years, the organization has taken flak from progressives for its ban on gay scouts and leaders. But today in Texas, the group's 1,400-member national council is set to vote on a provision that would end discrimination for member youths. News is expected to come later this afternoon.
Whatever the outcome, local scout leader James Happell is greeting the results with a mixed-bag of feelings. Today's vote definitely inches the organization forward - but does it go far enough?
Happell and his wife have been active leaders at Troop 20 in Palmetto Bay since 2001. They watched their two sons climb to rank of Eagle - scouting's top honor. But in his conscious, Happell always disagreed with the organization's policy on gay membership. "I remained being a scout leader working from within to get it changed."
The 52-year-old ditched the quiet approach last summer, when the institution's policy impacted his own troop. An Eagle Scout in the group mentioned to an acquaintance that he was bi-sexual. Later, he received a letter from the regional office revoking his membership.
"We tried to appeal that. He was a real good leader that wanted to stay in Scouts," he says. "That conclusion that many people draw is that if you're gay, you're a pedophile. And that's just not true."
He took to the web, setting up a change.org petition asking the Boy Scouts to ditch the policy. To date, 449 people have signed on.
As far as today's vote, Happell has mixed feeling. "I'm cautiously optimistic that it will pass, but it may not," he says. "There are a lot of people in scouts that feel the current policy is justified."
But, as he point out, the current vote would only scrub discrimination from the ranks of actual scouts; gay leaders and parents would still be shown the door. Yes, today's vote would be meaningful, but Happell says he would like to see the organization to all the way. He feels others in the scouting world feel the same.
"By allowing this to happen - whether it's direct or indirect - we're telling boys it's okay to discriminate. And it's not."