Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Eagle Scout Leads Campaign for Change in Scouts

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Buffalo: Eagle Scout Leads Campaign for Change in Scouts
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CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y.-- Growing up as a Boy Scout, Matthew Wilcott says he never thought much about the organization's rules about sexuality.

"I was in an organization that has an exclusion policy, basically, against adults and youth that are gay, but I still actively participated in the organization, even though I was against that," said Wilcott, an Eagle Scout.

Wilcott has remained involved with the Scouts as an adult, but also joined a group advocating against the national policy.

"One of the points of the Scout law is to be brave and I finally felt like I was standing up for something I believed in," said Wilcott.

In February, he started a Change.org petition asking others to back him up.

"Every city, every region has their own take on it and this is just one way for people to express their viewpoints," he said.

He's already collected about 500 signatures.

"I see that people are signing it from Michigan, Florida, Kansas, Texas, California, all over the place," said Wilcott.

"I certainly respect Matt's right to make that opinion public,” said Greater Niagara Frontier Council CEO Russell Etzenhouser. “He's someone that certainly feels very strongly. He's articulate about his concerns and opinion and I certainly appreciate that fact that he's tried to be very constructive."

With the national council set to vote on the issue in May, the Greater Niagara Frontier Council has sought the opinion of the entire Western New York scouting community.

"We've heard a wide diversity of opinions, membership standards should change, that membership standards should not change,” said Etzenhouser. “I wouldn't want to characterize it in any particular way, but there's clearly a diversity of opinion."

There are four voting members of the National Council in Western New York.

"There are parties on both sides that might choose to no longer be involved in scouts if a change occurs or if a change does not occur, but the sense that I've gotten is it won't be a large percentage of folks," said Etzenhouser.

Wilcott says he'll remain involved regardless of the outcome.

"I'm going to continue to push with that and continue to stay with the organization to push for a change if the vote doesn't go the way I want it to go," said Wilcott.

He believes change is coming soon, even if it doesn't happen next month.

To learn more about Wilcott's petition, click here

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