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Sgt. Edgar Rodriguez New York Police Department, says "if organizations like the Boy Scouts were to teach tolerance, they could help prevent hate crimes".

Source=The_Journal_News; Date=11/20/2000; Section=News; Page=1B;

Gay cop takes issue with Boy Scouts

NYPD officer rallies activists for inclusive Scouting

Blair Craddock
The Journal News

In his 19-year career as a New York City police officer, Sgt. Edgar Rodriguez, who is gay, has seen plenty of change.

Today, Rodriguez, who is the executive director of the New York City Gay Officers Action League, will give a lecture to police cadets at the Rockland County Police Academy on issues affecting gay and lesbian members of the communities where the rookie cops will soon go to work.

But back in 1982, when he was a rookie himself, Rodriguez said he would "never, ever, ever" have imagined that police academies would invite a gay activist to educate recruits.

As a new recruit, Rodriguez said, he felt "chills go up my spine" when an experienced officer slammed into the locker room, roaring with disgust after dealing with gay protesters on the street. "He was just raging, and what he said was, "If I ever find out a cop I work with is gay, I'm going to blow his head off by accident running up some steps," Rodriguez recalled.

Attitudes have changed, he said, in the police force and in society. But there's more to be done. That's why Rodriguez was in Nyack yesterday, speaking to a group of activists about the New York Coalition for Inclusive Scouting, a campaign aimed at changing the hearts and minds of the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America.

The national leadership of the Boy Scouts of America has a policy of excluding openly gay men or boys from serving as Scout leaders or participating in Scout troops. James Dale, a college student who had been a Scout since boyhood, was expelled from a New Jersey Scout troop in 1990 after joining a gay activist organization at Rutgers University.

His lawsuit, brought under a New Jersey law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled during the summer that regardless of whether the Boy Scouts were morally right to expel Dale for being gay, the Scouts have a constitutional right, as a private club, to decide who is admitted.

"Shame on them," Rodriguez said yesterday to an audience of 24 people at the Nyack Center that nodded in agreement. Scouting is a "wonderful" experience for youngsters, he said, "and that's why all kids should be included."

"It's this wonderful apple pie organization," Rodriguez said. "But right now, we've got a worm in the apple pie in the form of a discriminatory policy. We've got to pull that worm out."

Rodriguez said the New York Coalition for Inclusive Scouting's strategies include urging local United Way chapters to tell the Boy Scouts they won't receive funding unless they sign an anti-discrimination pledge, and urging school districts to adopt resolutions to stop giving Boy Scout troops "special privileges" at the schools.

"It's not to kick the Boy Scouts out of the schools, but just to stop giving them special privileges," he said. Often, he said, Scout troops use school facilities for free.

"The resolution would say to the Boy Scouts, you can still use our facilities, but you have to pay for the space the same as everyone else," he said.

The Clarkstown school district requires all groups meeting in school buildings to sign an anti-discrimination policy, a decision spurred by the Boy Scout ruling. School districts in Nyack, South Orangetown and Nanuet are wrestling with whether to allow the Scouts to continue using school buildings. The United Way of Westchester and Putnam has decided to stop funding the Scouts for its policy barring avowed homosexuals from serving as Scout leaders.

"It's crucial that kids be taught tolerance, not sent a message of intolerance," Rodriguez said. Hate-motivated assaults on gays and lesbians wreck the lives of the assailants as well as the victims, he said, and if organizations like the Boy Scouts were to teach tolerance, they could help

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