Boy Scouts hold signs at the "Save Our Scouts" Prayer Vigil and Rally in front of the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters in Irving, Texas, Wednesday, February 6, 2013.
IRVING, Texas (AP) - Faced with intense pressure from two flanks, the
Boy Scouts of America said Wednesday it needed more time for
consultations before deciding whether to move away from its policy of
excluding gays as scouts or adult leaders.
Possible changes in the policy - such as a proposal to allow sponsors
of local troops to decide for themselves on gay membership - will not
be voted on until the organization's annual meeting in May, the national
executive board said at the conclusion of closed-door deliberations.
As the board met over three days at a hotel in Irving, near Dallas,
it became clear that the proposed change would be unacceptable to large
numbers of Scouting families and advocacy groups on the left and right.
Gay-rights supporters said no Scout units should be allowed to exclude
gays, while some conservatives, including religious leaders whose
churches sponsor troops, warned of mass defections if the ban were
"In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of
feedback from the American public," said the BSA's national spokesman,
Deron Smith. "It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and
how passionate they are about the organization."
Smith said the executive board "concluded that due to the complexity
of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review
of its membership policy." The board will prepare a resolution to be
voted on by the 1,400 voting members of the national council at a
meeting in Grapevine, Texas, he said.
The BSA announced last week it was considering allowing scout troops
to decide whether to allow gay membership. That news placed a spotlight
on the executive board meeting that began Monday in Irving, where the
BSA headquarters is located, but the deliberations were closed to the
news media and the public.
Early reaction to the delay from gay-rights supporters was harshly critical of the BSA.
"A Scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be
brave today," said Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio mother ousted from her post
as a Cub Scout volunteer because she's a lesbian. "The Boy Scouts had
the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents, but
they've failed us yet again."
Brad Hankins, campaign director of Scouts for Equality, said the
delay would have a direct impact on young men already in the scouting
"By postponing this decision, thousands of currently active Scouts
still remain uncertain about their future in the program and are shamed
into silence. We understand that this change is a huge paradigm shift
for some, but this isn't a religious issue. It's simply one of human
morality, and that is something common to all faiths."
About 70 percent of all Scout units are sponsored by religious
denominations, including many by conservative faiths that have supported
the ban, such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist
Convention and the Mormons' Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Michael Purdy, a Mormon church spokesman, said the BSA "acted wisely
in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting said it would join in the
BSA's consultations over the coming months. Whatever the outcome, the
committee said, "Catholic chartered units will continue to provide
leaders who promote and live Catholic values."
Meanwhile, hundreds of conservative supporters of the ban held a
rally and prayer vigil at the BSA headquarters, carrying signs that
read, "Don't invite sin Into the camp" and "Homosexuality is a sin! BSA
please resist Satan's test. Uphold the ban."
Scoutmaster Darrel Russell, of Weatherford, took his wife and five of
their seven children to the rally. Russell said having gays in the
scouting movement would be like mixing boys and girls.
"The whole idea is to protect our boys at all costs," Russell said,
warning that if the ban is lifted "we're shutting down our troop."
President Barack Obama, an opponent of the policy, and Texas Gov.
Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout who supports it, both have weighed in.
"My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and
opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and
walk of life," Obama said Sunday in an interview with CBS. As U.S.
president, he is the honorary president of the BSA.
Perry, author of the book "On My Honor: Why the American Values of
the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For," said in a speech Saturday that
"to have popular culture impact 100 years of their standards is
The board faces several choices, none of which is likely to quell the
controversy. Standing pat would go against the public wishes of two
high-profile board members - Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and
AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson - who run companies with
nondiscrimination policies and have said they would work from within to
change the Scouts' policy.
Conservatives have warned of mass defections if Scouting allows gay
membership to be determined by troops. Local and regional leaders, as
well as the leadership of churches that sponsor troops, would be forced
to consider their own policies. And policy opponents who delivered four
boxes of signatures to BSA headquarters Monday said they wouldn't be
satisfied by only a partial acceptance of gay scouts and leaders.
"We don't want to see Scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts," Hankins said.
Nancy Deveau, of Mansfield, accompanied her 10-year-old son, wearing
his scout's uniform, to the rally at scouting HQ. She said she doesn't
want Scout leaders to drop the ban.
"We wanted to pray for our Boy Scout leaders to keep our values," she said.