Boy Scouts delay decision on policy excluding gays
BY NOMAAN MERCHANT & DAVID CRARY Associated Press
Thursday, February 07, 2013
2/07/13 at 6:26 AM
IRVING, Texas - Caught in an ideological crossfire, the Boy Scouts of America is retreating until May from a decision about whether to ease its policy of excluding gays. Whatever the organization eventually does, it's likely to anger major constituencies and worsen schisms within Scouting.
The delay, which the Scouts attributed to "the complexity of this issue," was announced Wednesday after closed-door deliberations by the BSA's national executive board. Under consideration was a proposal to ease the longstanding ban on gays by allowing sponsors of local troops to decide for themselves on the membership of gay Scouts and adult leaders.
As the board met over three days at a hotel near Dallas, it became clear that the proposal would be unacceptable to large numbers of impassioned Scouting families and advocacy groups on both the left and right. The iconic youth organization is now deeply entangled in the broader cultural and political conflicts over such issues as same-sex marriage and religious freedom. Tilting toward either side will probably alienate the other, and a midway balancing act will be difficult.
Gay-rights supporters contend that no Scout units anywhere should exclude gays, and vowed to maintain pressure on the BSA's corporate donors to achieve that goal. Some conservatives, including religious leaders whose churches sponsor troops, warned of mass defections if the ban were even partially eased. They urged supporters to flood headquarters with phone calls.
"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."
The BSA "needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," Smith added. He said the board would prepare a resolution to be voted on by the 1,400 voting members of the BSA national council at a meeting during the week of May 20 in Grapevine, Texas.
The organization had announced last week that it was considering allowing Scout troops to decide whether to allow gay membership, ensuring that the executive board meeting would be in the national spotlight.
Learning that a decision would be deferred, gay-rights leaders assailed the BSA.
"Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delay action is another day that discrimination prevails," said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "Young Americans, gay and straight, are hurt by the inaction associated with today's news."
"A Scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave today," said Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio mother ousted as a den leader of her son's Cub Scout pack because she's a lesbian.
Tyrrell was among several current and former Scouts and supporters who rallied outside BSA national headquarters Monday and delivered petitions opposing the policy.
Conservative leaders made clear they would keep pressure on the BSA ahead of the May meeting.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said his group would continue warning the BSA "about the grave consequences that would result if they were to compromise their moral standards in the face of threats from corporate elites and homosexual activists."
About 70 percent of all Scout units are sponsored by religious denominations, including many by conservative faiths that have supported the ban.
The delay was welcomed by Southern Baptist leaders, some of whom had said they would urge their churches to seek alternatives to the Boy Scouts if the ban were eliminated.
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."
Michael Purdy, a spokesman at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquarters in Utah, said the BSA "acted wisely in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important moral issue."
Original Print Headline: Boy Scouts delay decision on gay ban policy
As Eagle Scout Will Oliver of Duxbury, Mass., watches, former den leader Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, Ohio, places boxes filled with petitions to the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas, seeking an end to a ban on gay scouts and leaders. TONY GUTIERREZ/Associated Press
Stephen Cyr (left), 13, and his brother Paul Cyr, 15, of Oak Cliff, Texas, attend a "Save Our Scouts" prayer vigil and rally in Irving, Texas, on Wednesday. The organization has put off a decision on its policy of excluding gays. RICHARD RODRIGUEZ/Associated Press