Gay scouts to be accepted on Jan. 1 in the Boy Scouts of America

Policy change appears to be welcomed in Denver

DENVER - Boy Scouts of America is opening its ranks later this week to gay youth. The landmark change for the Scouts takes effect on New Year's Day.

Scout leaders here in Denver say they're expecting a smooth transition.

"The Scouts are pro-kids. It teaches self-confidence and helps build self-esteem regardless of sexual preference," said Joe Farrell, director of field services for the Denver Area Council of Boy Scouts of America. "So we're very excited about helping all youth participate in Scouting."

Farrell says New Years Day should be a non-event.

Boy Scouts of America voted earlier this year to allow gay scouts, stating -- in part -- that while people may have differing views about the policy, it's about giving all kids the same opportunity.

Ben LeClaire, a 12-year-old Boy Scout First Class from Denver, isn't concerned about the changes. 

"I think it's perfectly fine," said LeClaire. "I don't really see the issue, and if any boy is willing to be a scout, I'm more than happy to welcome them."

Farrell note: "The policy states no youth can be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America based on sexual preference or orientation alone."

It's a change scout master John McKinney believes in.

"Anything that gives another boy the opportunity to join and participate in scouting - I think it's great," said McKinney.

He also said the changes might even be overdue, as he reflected on his own childhood in the Scouts and some of the friends he made while there.

"When they were adults - they came out and identified as gay," McKinney said of some of his fellow scouts. "It doesn't mean they weren't great scouts. They were great boys to grow up with and they're still great friends of mine today."

Leaders say the new policy is pro-kids.

"A person could announce their sexual preference and we would say, 'Fine, let's get ready to go camping,'" said Farrell.

The new policy still bans scouts from using the uniform to promote political causes. And gay adult leaders are still banned in the Scouts as well.

Ben's mom, for one, says the changes are about acceptance.

"I think it's a non-issue," said Andrea LeClaire. "We've raised our children to be inclusive of everybody - as long as you're a good person and you have good values."

The Denver Council said Monday the backlash from the new policy has been minimal.

Of the 1,000 scouting units in the Denver metro area, Farrell said only four were told they could no longer meet at their current church.

He said in all of those instances, those troops simply went elsewhere in their respective neighborhoods and found a church that welcomed them.

Scouts for Equality says it will now focus on the inclusion of gay Scouting leaders in the Boy Scouts.

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