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April 15, 2003

City passes letter criticizing Boy Scouts again

DHRC claims that policies violate city's Anti-Discrimination Act

By Beth Walker
Aggie News WriterApril 14, 2003 -

Davis City Council voted 4-1 on Wednesday to send a second letter to the Boy Scouts of America recommending the organization change its policy regarding sexual orientation.

A number of local Boy Scout members and leaders originally approached the Davis Human Relations Commission in 2002 to ask the city for its support in changing the BSA's policy, according to Commission Member Bill Ritter.

"The Boy Scouts have the right to discriminate," said Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald, chair of the DHRC, in an interview prior to Wednesday's vote. "We're asking them to change."The DHRC requested that the City Council write a letter to uphold the
city's Anti-Discrimination Act; the council unanimously agreed. The letter was then sent to the Resolutions Committee of BSA, which did not adopt the resolution at their national convention in February 2002.

"Maybe they won't agree to it again, but we'll keep sending it," said Ritter.Rex Starr, a parent of a Boy Scout now in Venture
Crew and member of Circle of Conversation, the informal community think tank that has discussed the issue with BSA leaders and local residents called the DHRC's decision to send a second letter "redundant."

"There is not one of us who knows of a gay leader who we would have a problem with if they acted in an appropriate manner,"
said Starr.The BSA's position statement, titled "In Support of Diversity," states that "the organization still stands firm that their leaders exemplify the values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.

On June 28, 2000, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed the Boy Scouts of America's standing as a private organization with the right to set its own membership and leadership standards.""Day to day, it' s not an issue," said Charles Stevenson, scoutmaster of Troop 66, which has 44 members.

He added that some parents of Scouts in his troop had met to discuss the matter, but he had not heard the topic come up in the past six months.After the vote, Greenwald said, "I'm very happy that the City Council by a majority agreed to write a letter to
the Resolutions Committee urging them to adopt the Boston Resolution which would change their policy to be more inclusive and allow atheists, gay Scouts or leaders to be a part of the organization.

"The one dissenting vote came from Councilmember Mike Harrington. He said at the meeting that he disagreed with the use of government funds to target "private, constitutionally protected organizations.""I think excluding atheism and inquiring about sexual orientation is wrong; it's bigoted and I don't support it," he said, but also stated that he was the sole vote against using government money to sponsor a public forum in May 2001 at the Varsity Theatre that he called an "unbalanced presentation.

"Harrington could not be reached for further comment by press time.On Wednesday, the council also voted 3-2 to take no action in sending a letter to the Yolo Bar Association asking if it is a breach of the Judicial Canon of Ethics for judges to participate in the Boy Scouts of America.

The DHRC also requested that the council endorse the essay contest "Lessons for a Peaceful World" sponsored by Davis Asians for Racial Equality and the Davis Enterprise in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Thong Hy Huynh's racially
motivated murder at Davis High School, according to city staff reports.The council passed the motion unanimously.

Greenwald said she hoped local kids would creatively express themselves about racism, bullying and bigotry by participating in the contest.

"That's what's needed for the community to begin the healing process for incidents that have taken place in schools," she said.

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