Update: The Boy Scouts of America delays vote on gay ban until May

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

The Boy Scouts of American has delayed a vote on whether or not to lift a ban on gay scouts, volunteers and staff, until May “due to the complexity of the issue”.

The BSA announced last week that it could soon lift its national ban on allowing gay members, volunteers and staff. Its National Executive Board has been in discussions since Monday, and a decision had been expected today.

A statement on the Boy Scouts of America’s website and Facebook page reads that the vote has been delayed until an annual meeting in May.

It said: “After careful consideration and extensive dialogue 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.

“To that end, the National 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. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013.

“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing it’s youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.”

The argument had been heating up on both sides of the debate on whether or not the Scouts should drop the national ban, which would effectively mean individual scout troops could decide on whether to be inclusive of gay members or not.

Religious opposition to the lifting of the ban noted that out of 2.7 million members across the US, around 70% of Boy Scout groups are hosted by churches and other faith-based groups, including the Catholic and Mormon churches.

“The homosexual lobby is trying to get the Boy Scouts to change their policy — they’re constantly being attacked and bullied,” said Jonathan Saenz, of Texas Values, speaking to the Los Angeles Times. “A lot of people are concerned the Boy Scouts’ image will be tarnished.”

A synagogue in California, however, recently became the latest in a list of religious groups to reject the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy, described as “damaging”.

Not all LGBT rights advocates would be happy with a drop of the national ban, however. Brad Hankins of Scouts for Equality said it would be a bad outcome for a divide forming between inclusive and non-inclusive scout troops.

“We don’t want to see scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts. So the best solution would be to end discrimination outright,” he said.

The Boy Scouts have lost funding from several large corporate donors over the policy, including UPS, back in November, who had given over $150,000 (£95,000), Intel, another of the scouts’ largest donors, ceased funding back in September, and the Merck Foundation in December. 

President Barack Obama said on Sunday that he thought gay people should be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America, and that “nobody should be barred” from the experience of being a scout.

On Monday, a rally delivered a petition with 1.4 million signatures pushing for the Boy Scouts of America to drop the ban.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and LGBT activist said: “The Boy Scouts are a fundamental part of this nation’s moral bedrock and they are one of our great cultural institutions. We have trusted them to grow and develop our young men for over a century.

“They’re a big deal, and that is why this proposed change is so critically important,” he continued.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, however, said last week that he though the Boy Scouts of America shouldn’t remove the ban.

Earlier this week, the head of a Christian legal firm in the US said that the reason that the Boy Scouts of America may make moves towards dropping its ban on gay scouts was “spiritual pressure” from Satan.

Last week one US radio host said the scouts should “shut down” rather than allow gays in, and that these are signs of the “end times”, and another said that allowing gay scout masters would allow “gay activists” to “spread deviant sexuality”.

A father of two from Brooklyn, New York, recently started his own Boy Scouts troop, inclusive of gay members, and girls, to allow his son to be a member without having to accept the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy.

By Wednesday morning, the Boy Scouts of America Facebook page had more than 27,000 comments on the issue.