Clockwise from left, Boy Scouts Eric Kusterer, Jacob Sorah, James Sorah, Micah Brownlee, and Cub Scout John Sorah hold signs at the “Save Our Scouts” Prayer Vigil and Rally on Wednesday at Scouts national headquarters in Irving, Texas.
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IRVING, Texas — The Boy Scouts of America is putting off until May a decision on whether to ease its policy of excluding gays. The organization attributed the delay to “the complexity of this issue.”
Board members for the Boy Scouts of America, which turns 103 on Friday, had been expected to vote on the matter on Wednesday.
The Boy Scouts upheld the ban just last year amid criticism from gay rights groups.
The national executive board, which lists more than 70 members, had been meeting privately since Monday at a hotel near Boy Scouts headquarters in Irving. A coalition of 33 councils that represent about one-fifth of all youth members had asked the board to delay the vote.
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 this week, it became clear that the proposal would be unacceptable to large numbers of Scouting families and advocacy groups on both the left and right.
Gay-rights supporters contend that no Scout units anywhere should exclude gays and vowed to maintain pressure on the Boy Scouts of America’s corporate donors to achieve that goal.
Some conservatives, including religious leaders whose churches sponsor troops, warned of 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 organization’s national spokesman, Deron Smith. “It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.”
The Boy Scouts of America “needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” Mr. Smith said.
The board will prepare a resolution to be voted on by the 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America national council at a meeting during the week of May 20 in Grapevine, Texas.
The organization 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 Boy Scouts of America.
“Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delays 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. “They failed us yet again,” she told the Associated Press. “Putting this off until May only ensures other gay kids and gay parents are discarded.”
Conservative leaders made clear they would keep pressure on the organization ahead of the May meeting.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said his group would continue warning the Boy Scouts of America “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, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Mormon church.
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.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment on the Boy Scouts of America’s delay but reiterated that President Obama’s view that gays should be able to participate in the Scouts.
A national poll released by Quinnipiac University on Wednesday found a solid majority of registered voters, 55 percent to 33 percent, favored ending the ban.