LA CROSSE, Wis. - After decades of banning openly gay scouts and scout leaders, the Boy Scouts of America is rethinking its policy.
The organization's board of directors is expected to vote next week on whether to change membership standards. However, even if the national organization changes it's policy, each individual troop would still get to decide whether to allow openly gay scouts and scout leaders.
"It was really hard for me because it had always been a desire of mine to give back to the Boy Scouts what they had given to me," said Eric Busse, a gay UW-La Crosse student who earned Eagle Scout as a youth.18349306
Busse spent his childhood making friends in the Boy Scouts and earning his way to the highest scout honor.
"I am definitely proud to say I am an Eagle Scout because I worked my butt off," he said.
When he came out as gay at the age of 18, however, Busse's involvement with the organization came to an end. That meant giving up his dream of being a scout leader and guide.
"If I wanted to do that, I would have to never talk about who I was or the person I loved because there probably would be repercussions," said Busse.
In a somewhat unexpected development, the Boy Scouts of America is planning to vote next week on whether to keep it's current policy on homosexuality.
"To me, this is tremendously significant," said Sean Henneman, scout executive for the Gateway Area Council. The organization serves about 4,000 scouts in the La Crosse area.
"I do believe they're looking really long and hard at what our membership wants and what is best for the Boy Scouts in our effort to deliver our programs to the maximum number of youth," said Henneman.
Henneman says some troops, especially those associated with religious institutions, may choose to keep their no-gay policies in place even if the national organization changes course.
"I think it's a polarizing topic and I've heard from both sides," he said.
Busse is hopeful he will soon be able to get involved again with the organization that still means so much to him.
"I think the Boy Scouts of America, at its heart, will be on the right side of history and the side that stands for tolerance," said Busse.
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