WALNUT CREEK -- As many in the Bay Area celebrated the Boy Scouts of America's vote Thursday to allow openly gay boys to continue participating in Scouting, Walnut Creek scoutmaster Bruce A. McIntosh lamented the change.
"Today is a sad day for America's youth," said McIntosh, the Scoutmaster of Troop 818 in Walnut Creek, who has been involved in Scouting for more than 40 years as a Scout and adult volunteer. "The Scout Law calls for a Scout to be brave, but courage was not on display among the majority of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America."
Steve Hoagland, community chair of Boy Scout Troop No. 48 in Pittsburg, didn't see it that way.
"I think it's about time," Hoagland said after learning the ban was lifted. "I'm excited that we're going to stop hating and start loving and help kids be kids."
Scouting's National Council on Thursday approved lifting the long-standing ban on accepting gay Scouts with more than 60 percent of voting members supporting the proposal at their annual meeting in Texas.
"Historically to be a Boy Scout you had to have two parameters -- you had to believe in a supreme being and had to be hetereosexual," said Mike Lorenzen, a retired Saratoga scoutmaster. "So they did something. How they implement it will be interesting. ... I don't know what the solutions are."
Alex Bergtraun, assistant Scout master with Troop 6 in Berkeley and an Eagle Scout himself, said his troop was publicly against the ban even before any voting took place when began working on change at the local level.
"Scouting has nothing to do with sexual orientation," Bergtraun said. "It is about learning to be a good citizen learning to live in the real world.
"The sooner we (put this issue to rest,) the sooner we can get back to everyday work of teaching the boys how to be good people."
But McIntosh said the majority of the 1,400 voting members bowed to external pressure and the national scout executives' willingness to trade timeless values for today's corporate approval.
Ryan Andresen, a Moraga teen who was expelled from Scouting and denied his Eagle Scout award last fall after he told his scoutmaster that he objected to the organization's "Duty to God" requirement and that he is gay, was not available for comment Thursday, but his father, Eric Andresen, released a statement.
"We are relieved to hear that other Scouts will not have to suffer the rejection and expulsion that Ryan experienced, and we're glad to see that the BSA is finally starting to see how harmful its discriminatory policies have been," said Andresen, who along with his wife, Karen, launched a petition on Change.org that garnered 1.8 million backers. "Had this policy been in place just 8 months ago, Ryan would already be an Eagle Scout, and he could've avoided so much pain."
Under the proposal drafted by the Scouts' governing board, gay adults will remain barred from serving as Scout leaders, which frustrates Deborah McCaskey, the mother of an Eagle Scout and wife of a Scout leader in Pinole.
"I think they have done the right thing," McCaskey said. "I am glad it got voted that way, but I also think they have not gone far enough. They should allow gay leaders as well."
McCaskey said she was appalled that a stellar Scout wouldn't be eligible to lead the next generation of Scouts.
"I very strongly believe that, with adult leaders, there are no morality questions there at all," she said. "The failings of past leaders, which were well-documented, were not necessarily people that were openly gay. They were dealing with a problem that had nothing to do with sexual orientation."
Scouts for Equality, GLAAD and the Inclusive Scouting Network all applauded the passage of the resolution.
"Scouts for Equality is honored to be a part of the movement that has achieved a tremendous victory towards the fight for equality in America and we are proud to call ourselves Scouts," said Zach Wahls, an ¿Eagle Scout and Founder of Scouts for Equality. "We look forward to the day where we can celebrate inclusion of all members and are committed to continuing our work until that occurs."
East Bay resident Steve Tennent, the committee chairman of Troop 57 in Orinda, agreed.
"It could have gone other way. The BSA could have said 'We don't care' and voters could have said "We don't care' and they didn't do that," he said. "They listened, took the right steps. It is a good day for scouts."
Representatives from the Boy Scouts of America said the policy change will be effective Jan. 1, 2014 for the 116,000 Scouting units.
But Thursday's outcome is unlikely to end a bitter debate over the Scouts' membership policy.
Some conservative churches that sponsor Scout units wanted to continue excluding gay youths, in some cases threatening to defect if the ban were lifted. More liberal Scout leaders -- while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth -- have made clear they want the ban on gay adults lifted as well.
Bruce Lee, a Santa Clara Scoutmaster, said he fears there will be backlash and some scouts might see support pulled and troops disbanded.
"Without a doubt that will happen. We don't want to deal with boys having to drop scouting, and trying to make sure that boys will get a new home."
He added that expressed fears sound like old-fashioned paranoia and that he'd like to see scouts become a co-ed organization.
"We're one of the only country that seperates them," he said "Everywhere else, it's just 'scouting.'"
Staff writers Eric Kurhi, Natalie Neysa Alund and Robert Salonga and wire services contributed to this report.