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Mayor won’t meet with Boy Scouts at City Hall

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet staff
Wednesday August 01, 2001

The mayor won’t meet with Japanese scouts and their local hosts at City Hall after all. The meeting, planned for Monday morning, where Japanese scouts are to present Mayor Shirley Dean with a proclamation from the mayor of Berkeley’s sister city in Japan, will be moved to a private location.  

And that’s a relief to openly gay Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who questioned the original meeting place. 

The Boy Scouts’ policy is to ban “out” homosexuals as scouts and as scout leaders and the city’s policy is not to support groups that discriminate, Worthington said.  

(The Daily Planet has been unable  

to confirm the position of  

the Japanese Boy Scouts with respect to homosexuality.) 

Dean said that moving the meeting, which would have included the foreign visitors as well as local host scouts, off city property, was to remove the young visitors from the embarrassment they might encounter had they met in a public place.  

“These are visitors from another country,” she said. “I’m welcoming them to the city of Berkeley.” 

According to Dean, the city attorney said that the meeting would be proper as long as there was no city money involved in supporting the event. City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque did not return the Daily Planet’s numerous calls to confirm city policy. 

The youth, who will be hosted by the Berkeley-Albany Girl Scout Association – the Girl Scouts do not discriminate against gays – and the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council of America, will arrive in the Bay Area on Saturday. At the Monday event, now to be held at a private undisclosed venue, the scouts will present an official proclamation to Dean from the mayor of Sakai, Japan, a sister city to Berkeley. The visit is an offshoot of exchanges with the sister city program. 

The national scout policy excluding gays from the Boy Scouts weighs heavily on local scout leader George Fossellus. When he joined the Boy Scouts as a youth, morally straight meant morally upright, he told the Daily Planet Tuesday. Now the term’s been interpreted to mean that a scout and scout leaders must be heterosexual. 

Fossellus, who is helping to organize the visit of the Japanese scouts, said he doesn’t agree with the national policy and says local scout troops are working from inside the organization to change the policy. He works with the scouts despite its discriminatory policies because of the positive benefits he said the youth get from scouting and the service the scouts give to the community. 

When Worthington learned from a reporter that the mayor had decided to meet with the scouts off of public property, he commented, “Oh, that’s wonderful,” then qualified his enthusiasm. 

While he said he believes it is the mayor’s right to meet with the scouts on private property, he said she ought to take an additional step and educate the young visitors about Berkeley’s policy of non-discrimination. Worthington said he plans to write an explanation to the youth, have it translated into Japanese and offer it to the mayor to give to the visitors. 

Dean said the move of the meeting away from City Hall is to protect the young visitors. “We don’t want to see them embarrassed at all,” she said. “These are children. They do not set policy.”