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Sea Scouts Will Drop Anchor In Richmond
July 17, 1998


Friday, July 17, 1998
Section: news
Page: A07
Shawn Masten

RICHMOND - After months of bearing the brunt of controversy over the Boy Scouts' policy banning gays and atheists, a Sea Scout troop may have found relief in Richmond.

The City Council, after two hours of public testimony, voted Tuesday to give a free berth at the Richmond Marina to the Sea Scout ship Northland, which lost its free dock at the Berkeley Marina because of the national policy.

"I'm really proud that Richmond was able to come to grips with this when Berkeley couldn't," Councilman Tom Butt, a supporter, said Wednesday.

"I think we looked at it and found a way to make this a win-win situation. We stood by the kids and found a way to prevent discrimination."

The Northland has its own non-discrimination policy that allows it to actively recruit members without regard to sexual orientation or religious preferences.

The troop had enjoyed a free berth in Berkeley for 65 years. But the Berkeley City Council, hoping to send a message to the national organization that discrimination is intolerable, terminated that arrangement in May.

The troop insisted it has never discriminated and hammered out its nondiscrimination policy as a compromise, but Berkeley rejected it.

Critics liken the revised policy to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" guidelines and worried that gay scouts would be welcome only if they keep quiet.

"We wanted to acknowledge the fact that this group has in essence thumbed their nose at the national policy," Richmond Mayor Rosemary Corbin said.

"We're rewarding them for that.

"If we denied this, I don't think the national would have given a hoot."

Ron Kennedy, director of the Richmond Marina, said Wednesday a rental agreement is in progress, and the ship could come to town within a month.

The agreement will include requirements that the troop not discriminate and that it recruit at least 50 percent of its members from the city.

It also will include terms for termination should discrimination occur.

"My vote in favor of this is a measure of my support for your defiance but if I ever catch you discriminating I will work very hard to stop this," Councilman Alex Evans said before the 6-0 vote.

Councilwomen Lesa McIntosh and Donna Powers were absent, and Councilwoman Irma Anderson abstained.

The agreement will be with the Northland Nautical Foundation, not the Boy Scouts of America.

Sponsoring organizations such as the foundation, a nonprofit group founded by adult leaders after the situation with Berkeley, are allowed to have their own policies, said Doug Haight, a parent volunteer and El Sobrante resident.

"We are not having a gun held to our head and being told we have to discriminate," Haight said.