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HB Independent

O.C. Boy Scouts await national ruling

Local troops take their direction from the national body, which on Wednesday delayed its decision.

By Jill Cowan

10:26 PM PST, February 6, 2013

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In the wake of the Boy Scouts of America's decision to delay voting on whether to lift its ban on gay members and leaders, Orange County scouting leaders said they'll continue deferring to national policies.

"All I can tell you is that the announcement came from the national council and is about national policy," said Jeff Herrmann, president and Scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America Orange County Council, "and our Boy Scout council has agreed with the national organization, not just on this issue, but all issues, to follow national policy."

After recently announcing that it would reconsider the ban in favor of allowing local chapters to decide whether to admit gays, the national organization instead opted to vote on the matter in May at an executive board meeting in Irving, Texas.

In announcing the postponement, the organization said it needed more time to study the issue of sexual orientation.

The national ban is part of Orange County's policy, Herrmann said, "so if it becomes an issue, we have to deal with it."

In general, Herrmann said, "We don't ask people — kids or adults — about their sexual orientation."

Herrmann said that the council operates the Newport Sea Base, along with the Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center, providing a wide variety of educational programs for local kids.

Both draw tens of thousands of community members, most of whom are not Scouts.

But he said the ban on gays does extend to those who participate in the Sea Scouts program, a co-ed maritime division of the Boy Scouts, with groups based in Newport.

Herrmann said the Orange County Council is still awaiting information from the national organization on how it plans to proceed with its research into the matter.

"Quite frankly, I think what the national organization assumed was that they'd make a decision today," Herrmann said. "So all the things they were prepared to share with us changed."

Nevertheless, in Orange County, the ban has been something of a non-issue, he said.

Since he started in Orange County during the summer of 2010, Herrmann said, no disputes related to sexual orientation have reached administrators at the council level.

If there are debates, he said, they seem to lack the kind of vitriol that has been present in other regions.

Huntington Beach den leader Brett Walliham said in his couple years volunteering for Cub Scout Pack 287, the issue has never come up. No openly gay parents have applied to volunteer, nor have any openly gay boys tried to join the den.

And although he said he couldn't speak on behalf of the whole group, "from a practical point of view, if nobody objected to it, nobody would ever know I guess — it's sort of like, 'Don't ask, don't tell.'"

He said neither discussions of "gay or straight" in general nor national debates surrounding the Boy Scouts organization really register with Cub Scouts, who are elementary-school-aged.

jill.cowan@latimes.com

Twitter: @jillcowan