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New York State Coalition for Inclusive Scouting


By Jason Hammond

ALBANY, NY: Despite the cold and rainy weather, over 40 members of the Capital District Coalition for Inclusive Scouting (CDCIS) demonstrated in front of the local Boy Scouts of America (BSA) headquarters on October 12, 2002. The protest was part of a national rally week sponsored by Scouting for All, an organization based in California.

In June of 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that as a private organization, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has the right to
discriminate against its current or potential membership based on sexual orientation and religion. Since then, groups such as Scouting for All and the Capital District Coalition for Inclusive Scouting have held rallies, gathered petition signatures, and sponsored workshops on the issue--trying to get the Boy Scouts to change their own policy.

"I think the Boy Scouts of America is a tremendous organization," says Christopher Hayes, Chairman and founder of the CDCIS. "They are only hurting themselves by continuing to enforce this unjust policy."

Hayes, an Eagle Scout, was himself dismissed from the organization in August of 2000 after 17 years of service to the group. Since then he has been working with activists both nationally and locally to get the policy changed.

Saturday's rally marked the third consecutive year that protesters have gathered in front of the Twin Rivers Council headquarters in Albany. The Twin Rivers Council serves Scouts in the Capital Region and parts of the North Country.

Addressing the crowd that day were speakers representing a diverse group of organizations, some of which have already become members of the CDCIS. A few of the organizations represented included: the Albany Common Council, Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council, Capital District Humanists, Eleanor Roosevelt Democrat Club, Empire State Pride Agenda, National Organization of Women, Scouting for All, and the University at Albany Pride Alliance.

Ross Levi, Legislative Counsel for the Empire State Pride Agenda, addressed the participants saying, "My friends, we are winning. Equality is winning and fairness is winning in the ideological struggle to make Scouting a truly great organization." Levi went on to list the changes that have taken place over the past year, such as: Hawaii and Oregon restricting BSA activities at schools during school hours, the Scout council in Rochester holding a homophobia workshop for its leaders, and the Carrier Corporation ending its 18 year support of the Hiawatha Council's annual fundraising dinner in Syracuse. Levi and the Empire State Pride Agenda have been supporters of the CDCIS since its inception.

During his closing remarks, Hayes announced the formation of a new coalition. "The CDCIS has grown and become stronger over the past two years," said Hayes. "Because of our strength and stability, we will be expanding our inclusive Scouting efforts to include communities across the state. Starting today, the Capital District Coalition for Inclusive Scouting will now be known as the New York State Coalition for Inclusive Scouting."

Hayes mentioned how the coalition would be restructured into geographical units with leaders in the larger cities across the state. Plans are already in place to have teams in New York City, Syracuse, Rochester, and Binghamton.

Leaders will be responsible for organizing events in their area, but will receive logistical support from the Albany-based organization. Literature and other materials will be made available for state-wide distribution. Also, as with any non-profit organization, each team will be expected to recruit new members and assist with fundraising efforts.

Towards the same goal, Hayes has been working closely with other Coalitions for Inclusive Scouting. This has been most evident with the creation of, where general information on the coalitions and their mission can be found. Links to local websites lead to more specific information on each individual organization.

The new initiative of cooperation and resource sharing has proven to help the local and national groups get more people involved in the inclusive Scouting movement. People have not forgotten about the issue and continue to make headway across the country.

"As long as the Boy Scouts of America continues to discriminate," promises Hayes, "we will continue to stand up and fight for a better Scouting program--one that all boys will have the opportunity to enjoy."

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