Selectman Mitch Goldblatt after making his statement.
The Boy Scout National Jamboree will take place in West Virginia this year, so the Ct Yankee Council asked to use the Orange Fairgrounds on June 15-16 to host about 500 Connecticut scouts and leaders in preparation for the Jamboree.
At Wednesday night’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting William Amidon from the Ct. Yankee Council presented the request.
As it went to the Board of Selectmen for discussion, Selectman Goldblatt asked to speak.
He said, “Tonight I must oppose the request of the Connecticut Yankee Council Inc. …”
Goldblatt said he voted in favor of similar requests in years’ past, but, “I feel that the time has come for the town of Orange to take a stand.”
Although he and his son had been scouts when they were younger, and he has attended many Eagle Scout ceremonies and even received the CT Yankee Council Good Scout Award in 2005, he has been troubled by the Boy Scouts continuing to exclude gay boys and gay and lesbian adults from serving as leaders.
In July, the BSA emphatically reaffirmed its exclusion policy, which reflected the “beliefs and perspectives of the organization.” and then decided to take no further action on its membership policy.
He added, “In January, my son and I stood on the Lawn of the United States Capitol and heard our President proclaim in his Inaugural Address, that “our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
“I have decided that it is time to speak out against such bigotry and discrimination and ask that we take a stand as a board together,” he said. “I urge my fellow members of the OBOS to deny this request because the Boy Scouts of America’s values are not Orange values.”
He asked that the board deny the scouts’ request to use the farigrounds on June 15-16 unles the ban on gay scouts and gay and lesbian sout leaders is lifted prior to that date.
Board Members’ Reaction
Selectman Joe Blake said he wished he knew Mitch was going to present this statement before the meeting so he could have thought about it.
“I don’t know if we should penalize people who want to use the grounds now, but possibly consider denying it in the future,” Blake said.
Selectman Ralph Okenquist agreed that he would have liked to have had more information earlier but admired Goldblatt for his initiative.
Selectman Judy Williams agreed that the town should take a stand. We’re coming into a modern era where race color, creed and sexual orientation should not matter, however, she said she thought it was too late to deny it now.
She said, “We should bring it up next month and consider it.”
Goldblatt said he appreciated everyone’s comments, but as a community, we teach our kids about diversity. ” “I don’t have anything against you Bill,” he said addressing Amidon. “But I feel we should deny this unless the ban on gay and lesbian leaders is lifted by the June 15 date. Evidently the scouts are reconsidering it now, but some artists have pulled out of attending the Jamboree for the same reason.”
Blake said he thinks the approval should go forward but the policy should change.
First Selectman Jim Zeoli also said he wished the board had a heads up on the subject so they could have thought about it.
He, personally, was mixed on the subject. “This would send a message to the scouts chief administration but we’ll be penalizing the young kids who don’t know what’s going on.”
Goldblatt stood by his conviction that the board should take a stand.
Goldblatt made a motion to deny request the Ct Yankee Council’s request to hold a for preparation weekend for people going to National Jamboree unless the ban on gay scouts is lifted before the date (June 15).
Town Attorney Vin Marino said the First Amendment bans Government officials from discriminating against a group for their opinions. Of course, I came up with that after 7 minutes of smart phone research.
He also said he wished he knew about the statement earlier so he could have done research and had an educated opinion by this meeting.
“We can’t deny them because of their viewpoint, It would be violating their first amendment rights,” he said.
Goldblatt still stood by his motion.
Although Goldblatt had moral support, the board voted 5-1 to deny the motion.
Okenquist raised a motion to allow the scouts’ request.
This passed 5-1, with Goldblatt as the only dissenting vote.