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Boy Scouts exec: We're listening

The man in charge of the 12-county Boy Scout council that includes McHenry County says local troops are in a listening phase when it comes to allowing gay members and leaders.

Scout leaders here and across the country soon could be faced with deciding whether to allow gays into their individual troops after the national Boy Scouts of America board broached the topic at a recent meeting.

The board ultimately decided to table a decision on changing policy until it meets in May, when 1,400 volunteer voting members will have a chance to weigh in.

“We’re really in listening mode right now,” said Don Kinney, Scout executive for the Rockford-based Blackhawk Area Council BSA. “If we’re really going to do this justice and do this right, we’re going to listen to input.”

Kinney said the diversity of organizations that sponsor local troops make BSA’s upcoming discussion important. He cited Catholics, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Methodists and Lutherans as large partners, and noted that church groups account for nearly 80 percent of Boy Scout membership.

“In the groups that I mentioned, there are some pretty diverse thoughts about the issues of orientation, as well as several other issues,” Kinney said.

He called allowing or keeping a ban on gays “one of the most divisive issues of our time.”

“As part of a national movement, our policy locally, and my policy as the chief executive officer, is the national Boy Scouts of America’s policy,” Kinney said.

The Blackhawk council – one of 300 Boy Scout councils chartered by Congress – issues charters to partners in the counties of Boone, Carroll, Grant, Green, Jo Daviess, Lafayette, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago.

The council’s Sycamore District in McHenry County includes 12 chartered partners and 5,000 Scouts. Partners can sponsor more than one troop.

Emails to several local troop leaders requesting comment for this story were not returned.

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