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A Utah gay-rights group seeking to sponsor a Boy Scout troop wonders why its approval seems to be delayed and is receiving close scrutiny by lawyers at Scout headquarters despite the Scouts lifting a ban on gay leaders in July.
"Apparently it is in the hands of the legal counsel" at national headquarters, said Mark Lawrence, director of Restore Our Humanity, a group that pressed for the legalization of gay marriage in Utah.
"My guess is that most applications don't go to the legal counsel's desk, and that they are handled way before that," he said. "So that's a little discouraging."
Lawrence's group announced in August that it would apply to start a Utah troop that would include gay leaders. It formally applied Sept. 21. The local Great Salt Lake Council forwarded the application to national headquarters, which is routine.
Lawrence said he called the national chief operating officer of the Boy Scouts in Texas in the past week seeking information about status of the application, and was simply referred to its legal counsel's office.
"What we're told is that they are trying to get their standards and policies rewritten before they make a decision. But it's been six weeks now," he said.
"As far as we can see everything is in compliance with their new policies. They don't seem to be truthful with us in what the hang-up is at least they are not telling us," he added.
Lawrence notes his group is not proposing to be just an LGBT troop. "We intend to be an inclusive charter for anyone."
In response to a Salt Lake Tribune inquiry, Scouts headquarters issued a written statement. "The Boy Scouts of America is carefully reviewing each new chartered organization application. Part of this review is to ensure applicants adhere to the BSA's policies and standards. Throughout this process families can select units chartered to organizations with similar beliefs that best meet the needs of their families."
Rick Barnes, Scout executive for the local Great Salt Lake Council, said because of the change to allow gay leaders, the national Boy Scouts "has to come up with some new changes to their new-unit application and their new-partner responsibilities" agreements that all new applicants must face, not just gay-related groups.
He said headquarters is still working on that, and he does not know what changes may be under consideration.
But he said an application made by a parents group in Tooele filed about the same time as the one by Restore Our Humanity had already received national approval. Barnes said he expects word on the Restore Our Humanity application within a few weeks.
Concern about delays comes amid news that donations from local Friends of Scouting drives have dropped so low that the nation's largest local Scout council the Orem-based Utah National Parks Council is planning layoffs, and other Utah-based councils are planning budget cuts.
While the National Parks Council said it is not sure why donations have dropped, it comes after the change in the policy on gay leaders which initially led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to consider ending its affiliation, although the Utah-based faith later decided to stick with the Scouts.
"I really don't think their funding is down because of the new policies. I see that as blaming the gays, and that really doesn't make much sense to me," Lawrence said, adding some donors may be withholding money because they do not see Scouts as inclusive enough yet.
"Boy Scouts are in a position now where they could recover from that easily by sticking to these new policies, becoming more open, more welcoming, more affirmative," he said, "and stop being an organization that a lot of people see as very exclusive."