February 6, 2013

Boy Scouts delay decision on gays until May

'The organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," a spokesman says.

The Associated Press

IRVING, Texas — Caught in an ideological crossfire, the Boy Scouts of America is putting off until May a decision on whether to ease its policy of excluding gays. Whatever the organization eventually does, it's likely to anger major constituencies and worsen schisms within Scouting.

click image to enlarge

Surrounded by area scouts, Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, reads the press release to that crowd announcing that the Boy Scouts of America will be postponing its decision to admit gays at the “Save Our Scouts” Prayer Vigil and Rally in front of the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters in Irving, Texas, Wednesday, February 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Richard Rodriguez)

click image to enlarge

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 in front of the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters in Irving, Texas, Wednesday, February 6, 2013. The Boy Scouts of America said Wednesday it needed more time before deciding whether to move away from its divisive policy of excluding gays as scouts or adult leaders. (AP Photo/Richard Rodriguez)

Reaction to the Boy Scouts' decision to delay a vote on ending its ban on gay people

Below are comments form both sides of the issue:

"Due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy." — Deron Smith, Boy Scouts of America spokesman

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"The decision from the Boy Scouts today is no doubt a victory. And it's a result of people standing up and standing for the timeless values and moral principles that the Boy Scouts teach and they stand for themselves." — Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values

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"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." — President Barack Obama, whose office also makes him honorary president of the BSA

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"They failed us yet again ... Putting this off until May only ensures other gay kids and gay parents are discarded." — Jennifer Tyrrell, a mother ousted as leader of her son's Cub Scout pack in Ohio because she is a lesbian.

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"It's not a place to have homosexuals with our boys. If this happens, we're shutting down our troop." — Scoutmaster Darrel Russell

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"By postponing this decision, thousands of currently active Scouts still remain uncertain about their future in the program and are shamed into silence." — Brad Hankins, campaign director of Scouts for Equality

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"And I'm so thankful that we live in a land where we can respect your right to disagree. But we ask you to respect our right to uphold the values that we have held for over a hundred years." — Scout leader Chris Hill

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"I would have liked them to have made a decision in favor of what the Boy Scouts have been doing all along anyway. But the fact that they postponed it means that they are listening to everybody that's giving them information and opinions and requesting that they consider their viewpoint ... so that part, I'm impressed with." — Larry Weseman, Eagle Scout and Scout leader

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"We consider it a victory for today. And we are thankful that they are really considering what we are asking them to do, which is to hold strong to the policy that they have had for years." — Michelle Smith, associate director of Concerned Women of America

 

The delay, which the Scouts attributed to "the complexity of this issue," was announced Wednesday after closed-door deliberations by the BSA's national executive board. 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 over three days at a hotel near Dallas, it became clear that the proposal would be unacceptable to large numbers of impassioned Scouting families and advocacy groups on both the left and right.

The iconic youth organization is now deeply entangled in the broader cultural and political conflicts over such issues as same-sex marriage and religious freedom. Tilting toward either side will probably alienate the other, and a midway balancing act will be difficult.

Gay-rights supporters contend that no Scout units anywhere should exclude gays, and vowed to maintain pressure on the BSA's corporate donors to achieve that goal. Some conservatives, including religious leaders whose churches sponsor troops, warned of mass 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 BSA's national spokesman, Deron Smith. "It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization."

The BSA "needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," Smith added. He said the 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 organization had 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 BSA.

"Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delay 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."

Tyrrell was among several current and former Scouts and supporters who rallied outside BSA national headquarters Monday and delivered petitions opposing the policy.

Conservative leaders made clear they would keep pressure on the BSA ahead of the May meeting.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said his group would continue warning the BSA "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.

(Continued on page 2)

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