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Singer cancels performance for W.Va. Boy Scouts over gay rights

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A best-selling singer has canceled her appearance at the inauguration of the new Boy Scouts of America Jamboree site in Fayette County this summer, saying she could not support an organization that denies people entry based on sexual orientation.

"As an artist who believes in equality for all people, I will not be participating in the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree this summer," Carly Rae Jepsen wrote on her Twitter account Tuesday.

"I always have and will continue to support the LGBT community on a global level and stay informed on the ever changing landscape in the ongoing battle for gay rights in this country and across the globe," wrote Jepsen, best known for her 2012 single "Call Me Maybe."

Fayette County Commission President Matt Wender said he did not know Jepsen had rescinded her invitation to the Jamboree and as of Tuesday afternoon, he had not had any discussions with people at The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve about the decision.

However, Wender did not seem surprised that the Boy Scouts stance on gays could cause backlash.

"Of course we all know what the core issue is," Wender said. "I am sure the Scouts are struggling a lot with that."

"Personally, I would like to see them open access to scouting to all young men. I think it's a good organization and teaches a lot of life skills and creates a lot of good citizenship qualities in young men."

Another announced performer, the rock band Train, has also voiced their concern over performing at the Jamboree. In a statement issued on their website last week, the band said, "When we booked this show for the Boy Scouts of America we were not aware of any policy barring openly gay people from participation within the organization.

"Train strongly opposes any kind of policy that questions the equality of any American citizen. We have always seen the BSA as a great and noble organization. We look forward to participating in the Jamboree this summer, as long as they make the right decision before then."

In February, the Boy Scouts of America postponed a vote on whether to end their ban on gay members until May.

The group also said the board would continue its consultations with other scouting representatives, and about 1,400 voting members of the national council would take action on a membership standards resolution in May.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the Boy Scouts and its right to ban gays. Since then, and especially in recent years, the organization has come under increasing public pressure to change their policies.

The 10,600-acre Summit site borders more than 70,000 acres of the New River Gorge National River in Fayetteville. The Jamboree, being held July 15 to 24, will be the opening event at the site.

Deron Smith, publicity director for the Boy Scouts of America, says the organization is moving forward with plans for the Jamboree.

"We appreciate everyone's right to express an opinion and remain focused on delivering a great Jamboree program for our Scouts,'' Smith wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

The BSA's policy has drawn attention before and gay rights organizations hailed Jepsen and members of Train for taking a stand and helping to bring the issue back into the public debate.

"Carly Rae Jepsen and Train's decisions not only send the right message to the BSA, but remind LGBT young people that they are supported and accepted,'' Rich Ferraro, GLAAD's vice president of communications, said in a statement to the AP.

Although Wender would like to see BSA accommodate all young men regardless of sexual orientation, he said it might be a funding issue with various religious organizations that is preventing a decision from being made.

"I understand that some religious organizations are very influential with scouting and are opposed to it," he said. "I don't know the sentiments of the folks in the leadership positions, but even if it was to open up and get past the issue, there is the other side of the discussion. They are dependent on private funding for their efforts, so it's an issue that does not have an easy path or answers."

Wender said the presence of The Summit at the New River Gorge creates "a tremendous opportunity for us for the young men in our county who also live very challenging youths. There are so many wrong things that can happen now growing up in our society and I hope we can be smart enough to use The Summit as a tool to give guidance to these young men who might not otherwise have this opportunity.

"I am all for the Summit and I can certainly appreciate the challenges the leaders are facing," Wender said. "I just wish it would have boiled over a year ago so it wouldn't be sitting right on the edge of the Jamboree."

Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathryng@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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