Boy Scouts and adult volunteers planning to wear their uniforms in Utah's upcoming LGBT pride parade aren't allowed to do so under the organization's guidelines prohibiting advocating political or social positions, a leader with the program said Friday.
Rick Barnes, chief scout executive of the Great Salt Lake Council, said he learned of the plans for Sunday's parade from a Scoutmaster, Peter Brownstein, organizing for Scouts and adults working with the Boy Scouts of America.
"We as a Scouting movement do not advocate any social or political position, so I reminded Mr. Brownstein that we do not wear uniforms at an event like this," Barnes said. "We do not, as Boy Scouts, show support for any social or political position. We're neutral. If he wants to attend the parade and others do that are Scouts or Scouters, they're welcome to do so as private citizens wearing whatever they want except their uniform."
"That's our official position. It always has been, there's nothing new here," he added. "We just don't want people to use the Boy Scouts to advocate their positions."
Brownstein, 53, and a machinery appraiser in Salt Lake City, was just starting to organize for the Utah Pride Parade to be held in Salt Lake City after last week's historic vote by the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay youth to join the program. He was organizing under the banner of Scouts for Equality, a group that campaigns for the LGBT community to be welcomed in Scouting.
"I am asking everyone to wear their Scout uniforms," Brownstein, whose son recently earned the BSA's highest honor -- the Eagle rank -- said before receiving the notice from the scout executive. "The message we want to send is that Scouting should be open to everyone and it's a wonderful program and everyone deserves to be included and have the benefits of the program."
After learning of the uniform decision, he said later Saturday: "Our current plan is to, out of respect for Rick as an individual, we will follow his request and I will not march in uniform.
"Others may choose differently," he added, noting he was aware of a father and son who planned to wear their uniforms.
It's unclear how many Boy Scouts and adults with the program will participate. One of them, Kenji Mikesell, an 18-year-old Eagle Scout in Salt Lake City, said he would wear his uniform despite Barnes asking them not to.
Mikesell said he felt it would be a "welcoming" for "gay kids getting involved in Scouting."
"Kind of like 'we want you here' type of thing," he said. "And also as sort of a sense of pride. I'm glad the ban was lifted. I wish it was lifted for leaders but this is a first step in the right direction."
Later Saturday, Scouts for Equality issued a statement asking supporters not to wear their uniforms.
"We at Scouts for Equality are very happy to see the continued interest and actions taken by our incredible base of supporters nationwide. However, in light of the recent request made by BSA officials to not appear in formal Class A uniform, we would hope that our supporters honor it and respectfully show your support for equality in non-formal attire," said Brad Hankins, national campaign director.
"Further, SFE approaches each officially endorsed event independently, and would never seek to introduce adult themes or imagery into a youth program, even if purely by accident. Therefore, we ask our supporters to use caution when promoting inclusivity in the BSA at events where adult themes and imagery are present," he added.
When asked about the consequences of wearing the uniform, Barnes, the Scout executive, said: "The first point of the Scout law is a Scout is trustworthy. Once they've been told our policy, we expect them to be a good Scout and be trustworthy."
If you are a current or former member of the Boy Scouts and would like to share your thoughts on how your troop, pack or council is handling the change in the membership policy, you can email the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may use some comments for a follow-up story, so please specify if your remarks can be used and provide your name, hometown, age, Boy Scout affiliation and a phone number.
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This story was originally published on Sat Jun 1, 2013 1:02 AM EDT