Gay Boy Scout discusses ouster

by Khalil Ayvar | 10/11/00 5:00am

Mark Noel told his story of how he was banished from the Boy Scouts of America organization for being homosexual to an attentive audience in the Phi Tau coeducational fraternity living room last night.

Noel, a Hanover resident, described his boyhood in the Scouting program, both before and after he realized he was homosexual, and praised the group as a very important and shaping part of his youth in Birmingham, Alabama.

Noel said the Boy Scout's recent actions against gay membership is "really unfortunate, the program itself is a good one."

Since joining the Boy Scouts at age ten, in 1980, until his abrupt termination on July 11th of this year, Noel said he had always remained a part of Scouting, in which he ascended to earning its highest award, Eagle Scout.

Even during his years at Georgia Tech, he remained semi-active with Troop 53 and friends in the Order of the Arrow -- an honor society within the Boy Scouts -- by keeping his dues paid, and participating in occasional weekend camping trips or activities. Later, he became an Assistant Scoutmaster to Troop 45 of Hanover, New Hampshire.

He said he never knew, as many Scouts and even adult Scouters never knew until recently, that the Scouting program had a policy against the admission of homosexuals, particularly as adult leaders. When news of James Dale, a young gay Scout Leader, began to spread through the press, many were shocked and disturbed.

James Dale was banned from the Boy Scouts as being "unfit" to be a leader and a role model, solely on account of being gay.

Dale, another Eagle Scout of the Monmouth Area Council in New Jersey, had a tale very similar to Noel's. In fact, Noel expressly compared their two stories last night.

"Dale and I are both the same age, we're both Eagle Scouts and members of the Order of the Arrow, we both served as Assistant Scoutmasters, and when we were in college, we were both leaders of our campus' gay and lesbian group," Noel wrote in the letter to the Valley News editor which prompted his ouster.

That letter was published July 2nd after the Supreme Court upheld the group's private status, thus allowing them to continue the ban. Nine days later, he received a letter from the local Scouting Council that his registration had been terminated.

He said the Scouts and parents in his troop were sympathetic, and upset how he had been removed so quickly and without their consent. Some of the older boys were so moved as to even gather in a parent's house, so as to not be considered an official Scout meeting, and discuss the issue, he said.

Noel said the boys and their parents all sided with him, but he could and still cannot attend official Scout meetings or functions at the risk of the Troop losing their charter with the Scouting organization.

Noel was saddened that though Scouting has spread, from its origins in England to nearly every country on the planet, ours chose to define itself by "one narrow set of family values."

Noel, and the Northern New England Coalition for Inclusive Scouting, of which he is chairman, believes that the National Boy Scouts executives do not represent in their beliefs the beliefs and values of anywhere near all the 6.2 million Scouts in this nation.

It will be the Scouts who suffer, he said, because the organization that wishes to remain private still desires all the benefits of being a public institution, and is losing its funding and support from the government and other organizations and charities with anti-discrimination policies.

"They can't have it both ways," Noel claimed.

Sex is not an issue discussed in Scouting, whether hetero- or homosexual, it does not have a place in any official Scouting literature, he said. Neither, for that reason, is sexual orientation.

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