A brief statement issued Wednesday, Feb. 6, by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), with headquarters in Irving, Texas, dashed the hopes of gay leaders and some scouts that the 103-year-old organization would rethink its membership policies and allow gays to participate fully and openly in its activities.
"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," notes the statement.
Due to “the complexity of the issue,” the BSA needs more time to consider all viewpoints, the statement continues, and will make a decision no sooner than May, following action by the voting members of its national council.
Between now and the National Annual Meeting in May 2013, the executive board “directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns.”
A report late Wednesday afternoon in the Washington Post stated, “In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public,” according to Deron Smith, director of public relations. The news report went on to quote Smith as saying, “It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.”
Smith reportedly said that the BSA 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 BSA ‘needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,’ Smith added.”
Just nine days ago, the organization had publicly stated that it was “discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.” In a statement issued Jan. 28, Smith responded to a news report which aired on NBC News that day claiming that the scouting organization would alter its policies in response to changing public opinion, partly because of a lawsuit filed by a lesbian Ohio den leader. That lawsuit and a nationwide petition drive purportedly collecting more than a million signatures has placed the BSA in the limelight regarding its membership policies.
A report by Reuters Wednesday evening noted that “More than 22,800 people had registered comments with the Boy Scouts on the group's Facebook page from its announcement [on Jan. 28] that it was considering lifting the ban until Wednesday's statement.”
However, the report also noted that a coalition of 33 faith-based councils, representing approximately one-fifth of the membership, has expressed opposition to any change which would condone gay membership. Even President Barack Obama and Texas Governor Rick Perry have weighed in on the issue, on opposing sides; the President favors lifting the ban. The Governor thinks the current policy should stand.
In 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the private organization’s right to set its own requirements and bans on membership, but that policy has become a source of increasing conflict in subsequent years; now, according to recent polls, a majority of the public supports lifting the ban on gay membership. However, the suggestion that the BSA might allow chartering organizations to set differing policies was met with criticism from both sides.
Boy Scouts of America is the largest youth membership organization in the country. The purpose of the organization, incorporated on February 8, 1910, and chartered by Congress in 1916, is to provide an educational program for boys and young adults to build character, to train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and to develop personal fitness.