Boston Scouts Try 'Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell'

B O S T O N, Aug. 1, 2001 -- One of Massachusetts' largest Boy Scout councils will allow gay scoutmasters under a new "don't ask-don't tell" policy, despite the national organization's ban on homosexuals.

"Discussions about sexual orientation do not have a place in Scouts," said Brock Bigsby, Scout executive for the Massachusetts Minuteman Council. "The Scouts will not inquire into a person's sexual history, and that person will not expose their sexual orientation one way or the other."

The Minuteman Council, an umbrella organization of 330 Scout troops and 18,000 Boy Scouts in Greater Boston, approved the bylaw July 19. The policy also prohibits the exclusion of anyone on the basis of race or religion.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts of America may exclude gays from serving as troop leaders.

A Consistent Bylaw

Bigsby maintains the new bylaw is consistent with the national Boy Scouts' policy, since scout leaders would not be permitted to discuss their sexual orientation.

Greg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, referred all inquiries to Bigsby.

A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said the Boston council may be the first in the country to draft an anti-discrimination policy within the framework of the Scouts' national bylaws.

"To have a policy that takes sexual orientation off the table entirely instead of making homosexuality seem like a dirty little secret is encouraging and significant," Eric Ferrero of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project told The Boston Globe. "And it sounds like what the group has done is going to be difficult for the National Boy Scouts to oppose."