Boy Scouts want to move past gay debate, focus on Jamboree

This Monday July 8, 2013 photo shows tents that will house staff members at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va. Some 40,000 Scouts, leaders and others will descend on southern West Virginia for the first ever National Scout Jamboree at the site next week. AP Photo/Charleston Daily Mail,Craig Cunningham

GLEN JEAN, W.Va. Two months after a vote that accepted openly gay boys as Scouts, officials for the Boy Scouts of America say they've put the issue aside and are focused on their 10-day national Jamboree.

Some 30,000 Scouts and their leaders arrived Monday at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in southern West Virginia. Thousands more staff and volunteers have been at the 1,000-acre site since last week.

Months of divisive debate led to May's vote by the BSA's National Council to allow gay Scouts to participate while keeping a ban on gay adults. The policy change is effective next January.

"We don't see any changes in the way we do things at the jamboree at all," Wayne Brock, the BSA's chief executive, told The Associated Press. "We don't see where it would have any kind of impact."

With much negative attention directed toward the Boy Scouts in recent months, Brock said the hope is that the Jamboree proves to be a big, positive event.

"People are going to see kids getting together, having a great time and learning," Brock said. "That's what the public will see is what Scouting is really all about."

BSA national president Wayne Perry said Scouting leaders have been too active to reflect much on the decision.

"We've debated this issue, but we've moved on," Perry said.

As Scouts get settled into their tents on six base camps and dive into the dozens of amenities that include whitewater rafting, mountain and BMX biking, and rock climbing, national BSA spokesman Deron Smith said the organization is unaware of any openly gay Scouts attending the Jamboree, noting "we do not proactively inquire about the sexuality of Scouts, or leaders."

But Pascal Tessier, 16, of Kensington, Md., an openly gay scout who isn't attending the Jamboree because of prior commitments, said some of his gay friends who are Scouts are attending.

"I don't think they're too worried about anything happening there," he said. "They've already been accepted. But they're also not making a big deal about it. They're regular Scouts."

Tessier believes it's inevitable that Scouts will discuss the BSA's decision at the Jamboree.

"Not officially, but by themselves," he said.

Scout officials said they're unaware of any scheduled protests at the Jamboree. Rich Ferraro of GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said the media watchdog group has no planned events around the Jamboree and is continuing work to end the Scouts' ban on gay adults.

"The Boy Scouts took an important first step, but there's still a long way to go," Ferraro said.

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