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Rochester, N.Y. - It was the reason Joel Helfrich turned in his scouting medals. The anti-gay policies of the Boy Scouts of America became too much for the former Eagle Scout to bear.
Thursday, as the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban against membership for gay boys, Helfrich - who is straight - smiled.
"I think there is going to be a number of people who join the Boy Scouts because of this," said Helfrich.
In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America said the following:
"Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote."
The policy change will go into effect on January 1, 2014 as the group said it needed time to implement the changes within its roughly 116,000 Scouting units.
Local Scoutmaster Jason Patterson said he can see both sides, and that the issue has opened a wound for many in the scouting community.
"My thought on that is this is a private organization and it should remain that way, they should be able to govern themselves," declared Patterson.
"It does an awful lot of good to the youth and you know, we want to be inclusive, I don't think anyone would disagree with that," said Don Hensel, Lighthouse District chairman.
In a phone conversation with 13WHAM News, Executive Director Stephen Hoitt said the following of Thursday's vote:
"It's probably not going to have a big impact in Rochester," said Hoitt. "Simply because in our five county area we've already had this policy in place--where it's conduct based--and you'd only get removed if it was something inappropriate."