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AMERICAN MORNING

Philadelphia's Boy Scout Council Removes 18-Year-Old for Publicly Declaring Homosexuality

Aired June 13, 2003 - 08:16   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just weeks after breaking with the national Boy Scout organization and actually adopting a non- discrimination policy toward gays, Philadelphia's Boy Scout Council has removed an 18-year-old Scout for publicly declaring his homosexuality.
Gregory Lattera plans to fight that decision.

He joins us from Philadelphia, along with his attorney, Stacey Sobel. She is executive director for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.

Good morning to both of you.

GREGORY LATTERA, OUSTED BOY SCOUT: Good morning.

KAGAN: Thanks for joining us.

STACEY SOBEL, CENTER FOR LESBIAN & CIVIL RIGHTS: Good morning.

KAGAN: Just to be clear, Greg, here, we are talking about one of the most progressive chapters of Boy Scouts in the country. As we mentioned, they had already broken away. But still they weren't happy with it. You came out and actually publicly declared your homosexuality. Why did you think that was important to do that?

LATTERA: Well, one, to me, it was never a secret to anyone. So it, you know, this was nothing new. And I figured I was not at a Scouting function, so it didn't matter.

KAGAN: And so to explain to people so they understand what the issue is, you held a news conference and you talked about it. What did you actually do?

LATTERA: We were at a news conference talking about gay rights and atheist rights in Scouting. And I said that I was a gay Boy Scout.

KAGAN: And following that, you receive a letter. What did that letter say and what was your reaction?

LATTERA: The letter said that they received information and my Boy Scout membership would be revoked and that if I would severe all ties with any Boy Scout affiliation that I had, it would be pleasing to them. My first reaction was I broke down. I just cried. I mean it was like somebody I knew died. It was really hard. You're in something for seven years and then you're told you can't be in it in a split second. It's like -- so I broke down pretty bad. And then after that I was angry.

KAGAN: We invited the Boy Scouts to come on with us. Instead, they have released a statement. So let's go ahead and share that with our viewers.

They say, "Greg has done a good job as a camp staff member. However, he organized and came out at the press conference, thus choosing to become an activist in the gay community. We have no problem with that choice. However, anyone who emphasizes his sexual preference or who encourages discussions of sexuality or encourages such behavior has no place as a leader in the Boy Scouts."

What do you say to that?

LATTERA: One, who did the letter come from? I mean...

KAGAN: This is their statement. We asked them to come on, instead, this is what they're saying.

LATTERA: OK.

KAGAN: Basically, it sounds like they're saying don't ask, don't tell. It's fine if you're gay, it's fine if you're straight, but the Boy Scouts is not the place where you talk about sexuality.

SOBEL: Well...

LATTERA: I didn't talk about it -- sorry.

I didn't talk about it at Boy Scouts.

SOBEL: And also, what they're saying here is a little disingenuous because they're doing it after the fact. The Boy Scouts, the local Cradle of Liberty Council, signed a policy and in that policy they said they weren't going to discriminate. They never said don't ask, don't tell. They never put any limitations on it. They said we're not going to discriminate against people in all programs and employment and adult leadership.

Now they're getting a hard time and they're taking it out on a young man who was just being honest, who's just demonstrating the ideals that the Boy Scouts taught him about leadership and honesty and integrity.

KAGAN: And so legally what do you plan on encouraging him to do, Stacey?

SOBEL: Well, what we're going to be doing is working with him to file an appeal. When he received the letter, it does give us an avenue to respond to it. And we're going to do that first. And one of the things we're going to ask is that he's reinstated in the Boy Scouts. And the second thing is we want him to get his summer job back. In fact, he got an award last summer for being an outstanding employee.

So there's -- nothing has changed about Greg. He's just as good of a Scout and as a leader as he was before and he should be able to continue doing that.

KAGAN: Meanwhile, as you take on the fight, Greg, any regrets?

LATTERA: Not a bit. Not one. Because I've been in the community, I've been an activist for as, you know, as long as I was old enough to hold my mother's hand. I mean it's, this is nothing new and I don't know why it's now become a problem.

KAGAN: We will be tracking your fight.

Greg Lattera, Stacey Sobel, thanks for coming on with us this morning.

We appreciate it.

LATTERA: Thank you.

SOBEL: Thank you.

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