Boy Scout Membership Up in Utah Since Gays Allowed

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Membership in the Boy Scouts of America has increased in Utah since its ranks were opened to gay youths a year ago, the state's three Boy Scouts councils said.

The councils all reported membership hikes since the organization's national council approved the new policy.

In the Great Salt Lake Council, Scout numbers grew 1.5 percent in 2013, while membership in the Trapper Trails Council increased by 2.1 percent.

The Utah National Parks Council, which includes small portions of Nevada and Arizona, reported a 4.5 percent increase in membership during that time.

"Every indicator for us has been very positive," said Allen Endicott, a Scout executive with the Trapper Trails Council. "Scouting is something that is loved in our area and really does make a difference."

Dave McCammon of the Great Salt Lake Council told the Deseret News in a story Thursday that the past year has been relatively free of controversy over the new membership policy.

Utah's jump in membership bucks a national trend. The state is home to the Mormon church, which has close ties to the Boy Scouts and is the organization's largest sponsor.

The bond between the Boy Scouts and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was born in the early 1900s from mutual values and principles.

Last year, the church threw its support behind the Boy Scouts' new policy that it would accept openly gay boys for the first time while continuing to ban gay adult Scout leaders.

The policy change angered some conservatives and members who consider homosexuality a sin and a violation of Scouting values. Some participants eventually left the organization.

Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts announced it lost 6 percent of its membership in 2013.

Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith did not return messages Friday seeking comment about the membership changes in Utah and around the country.

In February, Smith told The Associated Press that a drop in national membership in 2013 could be attributed to the policy change over gay youth, but he said there are other issues that have affected membership over the past decade, when membership has declined or remained flat.

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