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Grand Forks Herald, October 9, 2002
Box 6008, Grand Forks, ND 58206
(Fax: 701-780-1123 )

Eagle Scout wants to change Boy Scouts policy on gays

By Stephen J. Lee,
Herald Staff Writer

The Boy Scouts of America should stop discriminating against gay boys and young men, Patrick Lochwood says.

The Bemidji man has a certain standing to say that: In 1984 as an 18-year-old, he achieved the top level in Scouting, the Eagle Scout, when he was 18.

"In 1986, I came out as being gay," he said Tuesday shortly before taking part in a panel discussion about the movie, "Scout's Honor."

The film, which won the prestigious Sundance Film Festival award last year, was shown Tuesday night in the Empire Arts Theatre downtown as part of a local effort to join national criticism of the Boy Scouts' stance on homosexuality.

The film tells the story of James Dale, 29, an Eagle Scout who sued the Boy Scouts for dismissing him in 1990 for being gay.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Boy Scouts right, as a private association, to determine its own membership requirements.

Lochwood says his experience in Scouting was all positive, and he wasn't discriminated against at the time, because he didn't identify his own sexuality.

"It wasn't an issue for me because I didn't understand the differences in sexual orientation," he said. "It wasn't until I was 20 that I came to the idea that you could be something other than heterosexual. And it wasn't really until the 1990s that I realized the Boy Scouts had a policy banning homosexual adults from participating in the leadership of scouting."

He hasn't been involved in Scouting since 1984, but works with youth in ways not unlike Scouting's goals, he said.

He is program coordinator for BemidjiSafe, a youth advocacy program for gay, lesbian and bisexual youth, through a nonprofit called Evergreen House. It receives United Way funding.

"I am able to be a positive role model for young people dealing with issues regarding their sexual orientation and helping them lead successful lives," he said.

He once thought of being a Lutheran pastor, but was counseled by a supportive pastor that that line of work likely was not in the cards, based on the official church policy prohibiting actively homosexual people from ordination.

He still belongs to a Lutheran church and also attends a Unitarian congregation.

"I realized this was my sexual orientation, and this is how God made me," he said.

It's important to distinguish between sexual orientation and sexual behavior, he said.

"If a youth should identify as a gay or lesbian in their teen-aged years, I would give them the same message, that abstinence is the best way to go, that you are too young for that. That should be reserved for adult, committed relationships."

The film and presentation by Lochwood were sponsored by the local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the Grand Forks Human Rights Commission and the UND Ten Percent Society.

Although no longer active in Scouting, Lochwood wants to help change the Boy Scouts.

"I am a member of an organization called 'Scouting For All,' which is what this film is about, the creation of this movement," he said. "I'm saying I am a gay person and I find Scouting to be a positive movement that has a lot to offer young people. But I am sad and oppose their discriminatory practices."

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