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Worthington clarifies scout stance

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet staff
Friday August 10, 2001

Confusion has reigned since the mayor decided to cancel a City Hall visit with a group of visiting Japanese Boy Scouts, said Councilmember Kriss Worthington at a press conference called to clarify the issue on City Hall steps Thursday.  

Worthington said his objections stemmed not simply from opposition to Mayor Shirley Dean’s meeting with the Japanese troop’s local hosts, who are U.S. Boy Scouts and therefore part of an organization that discriminates against homosexuals.  

The objections were above all to the mayor’s meeting with them without making a public statement of her opposition to the national group’s homophobia. 

Worthington said he wanted to make it clear that he has no objections to a meeting with the Japanese scouts, who have no policy of discrimination, or to meeting with the Girl Scouts, who have a policy opposing discrimination. 

“Our message must be simple and clear. We are opposed to the Boy Scouts of America when it is discriminating against gay kids,” said Worthington, who is openly gay. 

The councilmember brought local gay and lesbian leaders to the press conference, as well as scouts and their parents, who have opposed the national group’s policy of disallowing gay scouts and gay scout leaders. 

Berkeley Cub Scout dad Lincoln Cushing spoke to the gathering about his experience walking with the Cub Scout Pack 30 in last year’s Solano Stroll, with the same banner he held during much of the press conference: “Berkeley Scout Parents say no to homophobia.”  

“People applauded (at the Stroll),” he said, then focused on the question at hand: “The enemy is the national policy, not the visiting scouts.” 

Recent Berkeley High graduate Ryan Georgi, an Eagle Scout, spoke as well. “Some of us are working from inside the organization to bring change,” he said. “I represent all the boys who are caught in the middle of this issue.” 

Mayor Shirley Dean, who was not in attendance at the press conference, blasted Worthington earlier in the day for holding the event which, she said, was geared to garnering votes for his upcoming state Assembly race. “I think it’s disgusting,” the mayor said. “(Holding the press conference) was needless.” 

Dean explained that she moved the meeting with the scouts away from City Hall, in order to protect them from the “mess” – that is, Worthington’s wish to “educate” them – and accused Worthington of damaging relations with Sakai, Berkeley’s sister of more than 30 years. 

Addressing the issue of the Boy Scout’s homophobia, Dean said: “I have plans for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We’re going to sit down together and dialogue to further the cause of getting rid of the policy.” 

Worthington also said he hopes for a positive result from the publicity over moving the meeting. He called on the local Diablo Silverado Boy Scout Council to stand up to the national Boy Scouts, as the Piedmont Boy Scout Council has done. “Let us make this occasion today a healing moment to display that the Berkeley area stands united in opposing the national Boy Scouts of America’s discrimination against gay kids.”