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Chapter accepts closeted Scouts

A local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America has acknowledged that a Scout can remain a Scout even if he's gay, as long as he isn't open about it.

The Narragansett Council of the Scouts issued a written statement late Tuesday in response to controversy over a 16-year-old Eagle Scout who has threatened legal action, claiming he was discriminated against because he is a homosexual.

The statement, similar to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, reaffirmed the group's position that being gay is inconsistent with the oath all Scouts must take in which they vow to be "morally straight" and "clean in thought, word and deed."

Still, the statement suggested that Scouts who are covertly gay won't be pushed out, by specifying that the organization "does not accept those who openly self-identify as homosexuals."

"It sounds to me like the Boy Scouts are in retreat," said Mary Bonauto, an attorney for the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston. "They acknowledge the sexual orientation of their members is none of their business."

The chapter said the statement had been approved by and written in consultation with the Scouts' national organization, which on Wednesday referred calls back to Rhode Island.

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that the Boy Scouts' ban on gays is illegal under the state's anti-discrimination laws. The Boy Scouts are appealing that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Evan Wolfson, a New York lawyer who successfully represented a gay Scout in New Jersey, said the policy in the Rhode Island case is the first time he is aware of that the Boy Scouts have put something in writing on the issue.