IRVING, Texas — The Boy Scouts of America decided Wednesday to put off a decision on whether to lift a national ban of gay members and leaders, saying the issue of sexual orientation was too complex and needed more time for study.
The decision to wait came after the organization recently announced that it would consider changing its policies and might allow local chapters to decide whether to admit gays as Scouts and leaders.
“After careful consideration and extensive dialog within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” Deron Smith, the BSA director of public relations, said in a statement.
“To that end, the executive board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards,” he stated.
The approximately 1,400 voting members of the national council will take action on the resolution at the national meeting in May in Grapevine, Texas, he said.
It was the Scouts that put the issue back on the agenda for the current executive board meeting, held in its headquarters in Irving. But the move also came amid declining membership, questions by corporate sponsors and public pressure from activists who oppose the current national ban.
“Today the Boy Scouts of America have chosen to remain irrelevant by delaying the vote,” said James Dale, who was expelled from the Scouts in 1990 for being openly gay. “For over 23 years, since I was expelled from the Scouts, I have held out hope that the Boy Scouts would end their discriminatory policy. With each passing day the Scouts will continue to lose members, sponsors and funding. No parent or child should associate with an organization that sends a toxic message telling children they are immoral if they are gay.”
GLAAD, the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group, condemned the decision to wait.
“An organization that serves youth and chooses to intentionally hurt dedicated young people and hardworking parents not only flies in the face of American principles, but the principles of being a Boy Scout,” GLAAD President Herndon Graddick stated.
“The Boy Scouts of America is choosing to ignore the cries of millions, including religious institutions, current Scouting families, and corporate sponsors, but these cries will not be silenced. We’re living in a culture where hurting young gay people because of who they are is unpopular and discriminatory. They had the chance to end the pain this ban has caused to young people and parents; they chose to extend the pain.”
Those seeking to keep the ban were also vocal. A majority of the Boy Scout organizations are sponsored by local churches, many of which have religious objections to homosexuals.
About 100 people gathered outside Boy Scouts headquarters in suburban Dallas carrying signs that said “Save our boys from homosexual acts,” “God votes no gays” and “Don’t invite sin into the camp.”
Texas Values, a conservative group that organized a prayer vigil this week in support of keeping gays out of the Scouts, said the Scouts organization was right to delay a decision.
“It’s a temporary victory,” Jonathan Saenz said of Wednesday’s vote. “Good for them — they’re obviously listening. We are encouraged and we’re glad they’re going to delay the decision. When you deal with such fundamental principles, it’s not something you want to tinker with overnight.”
Robert Davis, 48, of Benbrook, Texas, wore his Longhorn Council Scouting uniform and brought his two sons to the protest Wednesday.
“I think it’s a good sign,” he said of the organization’s vote. “The Boy Scouts of America is one of the last moral high grounds in this country. I hate to see it die.”
Among politicians, both President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have been part of the debate.
“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,” said Obama, who as U.S. president is the honorary president of BSA, in a Sunday interview with CBS.
Perry, the 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 inappropriate.”