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Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley Reaches Out To Educate The Otetiana Council Of Rochester NY About The Effects Of Homophobia Has On Youth

Scouts, alliance fight homophobia
By Greg Livadas <>
Democrat and Chronicle

(April 2, 2002) - The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley is working with the local Boy Scouts of America chapter to increase awareness about the risks caused by homophobia.

The "civility" workshops came as a result of a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the Scouts may determine their own membership standards, even if it meant restricting openly gay individuals.

The national organization says homosexuals are not positive role models for Scouts.

"As an organization, this council has always been concerned with ensuring we continue to evaluate our processes and make sure we're providing our programs to meet the community's need," said Larry Pritchard, Scout executive with the Otetiana Council, which serves about 20,000 youth members and 5,000 adults in Monroe County.

About 20 adult leaders in the council will voluntarily participate in the workshops.

"Hopefully these sessions will be the building blocks to training down the road," said Bill Hawley, executive director of the Gay Alliance. "Our eventual goal will be to have some training, and sensitivity training for Scouts themselves."

Hawley said the homophobia workshops will be nearly identical to those given to school districts and colleges, but scenarios tailored to Scouting themes will be included.

"However we say it, if we can help to have Scouts taught not to be homophobic and not to hurt people with words, everyone will be better off," Hawley said.

He said the workshops will introduce participants to homophobia, and show how it can hurt everyone.

"Youth do or won't do certain things so they aren't perceived as gay," he said. "A lot of youths have sexual relationships before they are ready, but they are doing it so they will not be perceived as gay."

No local Scouts or adult Scout leaders have publicly said they are gay, Hawley and Pritchard said.

Pritchard said other Scout councils nationally are holding other types of awareness workshops concerning homophobia. It is not even an issue in some councils, while others are being more aggressive in attempting to change national Scouting policy.

"Our hope is through the process of developing this training, we will be able to provide our Scouting folks in Monroe County the tools to know how to treat all people," Pritchard said. "This is just the first step in what will be an ongoing process. It is new territory."

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