US: Boy Scouts to march in NYC Pride in historic first

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A group of gay and allied Boy Scouts will this year march in New York City Pride for the first time, in defiance of a ban on gay scouting leaders.

The 44th Annual NYC Pride March, which will take place on Sunday 29 June, will include a local group from Scouts for Equality (SFE), an organisation consisting primarily of Boy Scouts of America (BSA) alumni dedicated to ending the ban on gay members.

The SFE contingent will be given the prestigious duty of forming the Color Guard, which marches with the US flag.

New York’s scouting troops fall under the organisation of the BSA’s Greater New York Councils, which announced in May 2013 that it has “never denied membership to a youth or adult due to sexual orientation” and that its members “strongly believe that both gay adults and youth must be welcomed in Scouting”.

In a statement to GLAAD, Stacey Sarnicola, who leads the local Brooklyn chapter of Scouts for Equality, said: “The Greater New York Councils’ inclusive policy is what gave me permission to allow my son to join the Boy Scouts. It’s what gives us permission to march, and it gives us hope for a BSA for all in the near future.”

NYC Pride March Director, Dave Studinski, added: “From their participation in our step-off ceremony through the moment they pass the historic Stonewall Inn, may the Scout’s joint display of our nation’s colors and the rainbow flag remind us all that the LGBT movement seeks not tolerance, but acceptance as equals.”

Seth Adam, Director of Communications at GLAAD, commented: “That local Scouts will now be leading one of the world’s most iconic LGBT Pride events is a testament to both how far we’ve come and how far we have left to go in the pursuit of full equality. Until gay and lesbian adults and parents can partake in their own children’s lives through Scouting, the Boy Scouts will continue to fall behind a rapidly growing majority of Americans, who agree that no one should be discriminated against because of who they love.”

Gay youth members have been permitted to serve in the BSA since a change in the organisation’s policy at the beginning of this year.

However, openly gay adults remain banned from leadership positions, and some have been removed since the rule change.

President of the BSA, Robert Gates, claimed in May that he could not reopen the membership debate for fear of rupturing the organisation.