NEW YORK — A high-profile member of the Boy Scouts of America's governing board says he doesn't support the Scouts' policy of excluding gays and will work from within to seek a change.
Ernst & Young CEO James Turley, whose accounting firm has welcomed gays and lesbians in its own work force, becomes the first member of the Scouts' Executive Board known to publicly disapprove of the policy.
"I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning and service, however the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse," Turley said in a statement released by his company.
"As I have done in leading Ernst & Young to being a most inclusive organization, I intend to continue to work from within the BSA Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress," Turley said.
The Boy Scouts responded Wednesday with a joint statement from the two top leaders, National President Wayne Perry and Chief Scout Executive Robert Mazzuca.
"The Boy Scouts of America respects the opinions of our board members and are thankful for their leadership," the statement said. "While we have supporters and board members with different viewpoints on this issue, and who may choose a different direction for their organizations, we believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together."
Last week, the Scouts confirmed there will be a review of a resolution that would allow individual units to accept gays as adult leaders. However, the organization issued a statement saying the review was merely routine procedure, and there were no plans to change the membership policy.
The resolution was submitted by a Scout leader from the Northeast in April and presented in late May at the Scouts' national meeting in Orlando, Fla.
During that meeting, the Scouts were presented with a petition, bearing more than 275,000 names, protesting the ouster of a lesbian mother, Jennifer Tyrrell, who'd been serving as a Scout den mother near Bridgeport, Ohio.
"We are at a tipping point, with national leaders within the Boy Scouts now taking a firm stand to help end discrimination," Tyrrell said in response to Turley's statement. She called on another prominent Boy Scout executive board member, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, to join Turley in speaking out against the Scouts' anti-gay policy.
Like Ernst & Young, AT&T has been commended by gay-rights groups for gay-friendly employment policies
"The last thing AT&T wants is to undermine its excellent reputation for supporting LGBT people by failing to support a resolution that would bring equality to the Boy Scouts," Tyrrell said.
AT&T issued a statement on Stephenson's behalf, indicating that he too might be interested in working internally to reconsider the membership policy.
"Diversity and inclusion are part of AT&T's culture and operations, and we're proud to be recognized as a leader in this area," the statement said. "We don't agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything. Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable."
The Scouts, who celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2010, have had a long-standing policy of excluding gays and atheists. Controversy over the policy intensified in 2000 when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Scouts to maintain the policy in the face of a legal challenge.
Leaders of several regional scouting councils have asked for the policy to be scrapped or modified, to no avail.