Editorial: City's Battle Against Sea Scouts Short-Sighted

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The city of Berkeley has yet again taken a bold stance on a social issue that has been a national controversy for years.

But this time at the expense of a handful of local teenagers.

The City Council began its crusade against the Sea Scouts in 1998, when it passed a resolution baring subsidies to groups that violate Berkeley's anti-discrimination policy.

The Sea Scouts, which is affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, bars gays from being members.

Since 1945, however, the city has granted the Sea Scouts free berthing rights at the marina, keeping in line with its practice of waiving all marina berth fees to non-profit organizations.

An appellate court in San Francisco ruled that Berkeley has the right to charge the city's Sea Scouts chapter to use a berth at the Berkeley Marina.

The Berkeley Sea Scouts now may be in danger of losing their berth at the Berkeley Marina, possibly jeopardizing the service the chapter provides to local teenagers by charging the group berthing fees.

The Boy Scouts' practice of baring gays from being troop members and leaders is an antiquated and despicable practice.

While this policy is a problem, the city should not endanger a small Berkeley Sea Scouts chapter that serves the city's teenage population.

Berkeley has made a name for itself in national media by taking on Washington, D.C. politicians to speak up on prominent national issues.

But in this case, the city has taken on a group of high school students who have no control over their Sea Scouts chapter's discrimination policy.

It is doubtful that Berkeley's new policy toward the Sea Scouts will provoke a large, national organization like the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its discrimination policy against gays and lesbians.

In fact, the only outcome Berkeley's and the appellate court's actions may accomplish is ending the Sea Scouts' use of the Berkeley Marina.

The city's Sea Scouts chapter provides a valuable service to the community's teenagers-its only fault is the discrimination policy imposed upon it by its large national organization.

The city must separate this policy from the honorable program the Berkeley Sea Scouts provides.

The intent of the program is not to bar gays from serving as troop leaders and members, but to provide valuable learning and growth opportunities to the city's teenagers.

Berkeley's leaders should learn to pick their battles and skirt public statements by taking on small non-profit groups that benefit the community's teenage population.


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