EASTERN CAROLINA - The Boy Scouts of America is scheduled to vote on Feb. 4 to end its nationwide exclusion of gays as scouts or leaders, and give the sponsors of local troops the freedom to decide the matter for themselves.
It's a controversial issue that has many local residents talking.
"I know a lot of gay people who I'd be thrilled to have as my child's leader," said Jennifer Roy, a parent of an Eagle Scout. "I would not be thrilled if my child had a bigot for a Boy Scout leader."
Roy has been a scout mother for many years. Her son even considered giving back his Eagle Scout award because he didn't think it was fair that someone's sexual preference prevented them from receiving it.
"He knows how hard he worked and so something that is as natural to someone as breathing, your sexuality, why should that protrude you from being able to be a scout leader or get an Eagle award," said Roy.
The East Carolina Council, based in Kinston, oversees 280 local Boy Scout units. Scout Executive Ray Franks has worked with the scouts for 37 years and believes Eastern Carolina wouldn't see much change from the national vote.
"I think locally that scouting will pretty much remain the same if it is approved," said Franks.
Pat O'Connell is the Vice Chairman of the Craven Pamlico County Christian Coalition. He believes if the Boy Scouts lift the ban on gays, it would take away everything that it stands for.
"The scouts have taken an oath to be morally straight, physically strong, mentally awake and if they get a little bit of pressure and decide oh we're not going to stand for right here, we're just going to cave in," said O'Connell. "I think that's sending exactly the wrong message."
Ray Franks said of the 280 scouting units in Eastern Carolina, 90 percent are owned by churches.
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