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Winger's Roadhouse Grill, Utah Sports Lodge and Madeline's Steakhouse have come forward to fill a void left when Chipotle Mexican Grill recently withdrew its support from Utah's upcoming Scout-O-Rama, citing the Boy Scouts of America's ban on openly gay members and leaders.
President Curt Gray said in a Friday afternoon statement that Winger's acceptance of diversity "is what makes us great."
Both the Boy Scouts of America and the Utah Pride Center are helping to support and build leaders for America's future, Gray said, noting the center's work to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth who are "bullied and too often rejected by family and peers."
Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, said Winger's and the center found common ground Friday and "a way to recognize the needs of all youth."
"We know there are gay and transgender scouts who will be proud to know their prom is also being supported by the owners and employees at this company," Larabee said.
Chipotle withdrew its initial support of the Scout-O-Rama this week, saying its antidiscrimination policy prohibits support of organizations that exclude people based on sexual orientation.
Rick Barnes, executive of the Great Salt Lake Council, expressed gratitude Friday for Wingers' offer to replace the approximate $4,200 in meals that Chipotle would have provided and called Winger's strategy "quite balanced."
"We respect the LGBTQ community. They certainly have the right to live and associate the way they want," Barnes said. "We have membership standards that are in place, and we ask that others respect those."
The Boy Scouts of America is surveying adult leaders, donors, major charter members and members 16 and older nationwide to determine if it's time for a policy change and to measure potential impacts either way, Barnes said.
Major charter partners include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Methodists, the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptists, he said.
In a statement, Winger's urged Scout leaders "to arrive at a resolution that is appropriate for their organization and its continued involvement with the future of America's youth."
After a decision is made, Winger's will "determine its continued involvement," the statement said. "Until then, Winger's Roadhouse Grill wishes all involved with Scout-O-Rama a fun and successful event."
The Scout-O-Rama a gathering of about 20,000 people with Scout-run booths that showcase what the boys have done during the past year and a Pinewood Derby will be held May 4 at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy. Tickets are being sold door-to-door by Scouts and can also be purchased at the South Towne Expo Center the day of the event.
After Chipotle's decision, Winger's, Utah Sports Lodge and Madeline's Steakhouse contacted the Great Salt Lake Council and offered "to take up the slack" and provide even more in sponsor funding, the council said in a statement. Earlier this month, a council volunteer had alerted Scout leaders that donations were lagging.
During its April 17 meeting, the Scouts' national executive board is expected to draft a resolution based on the survey results, Barnes said, which will then go to a nationwide vote of all Boy Scout councils in May.
"In essence, we have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy right now," Barnes said, noting that only one of the national organization's 2.7 million youth members was removed last year a California scout who came out as gay and an atheist at his Eagle board review.
"The atheist factor would have been enough (to remove him)," Barnes said, noting that a basic scouting tenet is a belief in a higher being.
Barnes expressed some frustration about the focus on discrimination in scouting, saying, "We're just trying to hold a Scout-O-Rama."
Scouting in Utah dates back 100 years, Barnes said, boasting 200,000 youth members among the state's three councils.
The Scout-O-Rama's partners and sponsors include the Utah Grizzlies, owned in part by West Valley City, which adopted an LGBT anti-discrimination policy in 2010.
West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder a Mormon, Eagle Scout and father to a Cub Scout and Boy Scout championed the antidiscrimination ordinance.
"In my opinion, sexuality shouldn't be part of scouting," Winder said. "It should be something left for adults in the bedroom."
However, Winder acknowledged that the Boy Scouts of America has reached a crossroads.
"On the one hand, you want an organization that any boy can be part of, and grow and develop in," Winder said. "But it also stands for something. So they are struggling and rightly so to find where that right balance is. These are important questions worth asking."