Boy Scouts of America's Ban on Gays Intact, For Now

Organization will vote on lifting ban at annual meeting in May.

Pascal Tessier, 16, center left, a Boy Scout, and his brother Lucien Tessier, 20, who had earned the rank of Eagle Scout, pose with their parents in Kensington, Md., Feb. 4, 2013. The two Tessier boys thrived in Boy Scouts even as many in their troop became aware that each boy was gay.
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The Boy Scouts of America has put off deciding whether to allow gay members until its national meeting in May, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The BSA announced last week its executive board on Wednesday would consider lifting the organization's ban on gays by letting individual troops decide whether to admit gay members and leaders. But Deron Smith, the group's director of public relations, said the board needs more time.

"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," Smith said in a statement.

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The executive board's 70-plus members decided Wednesday to continue to deliberate on the issue. Approximately 1,400 members of the group's National Council will take action on the ban at the organization's National Annual Meeting in May, in Grapevine, Texas.

The meeting began Monday in Irving, Texas, where Boy Scouts of America is headquartered. The 103-year-old organization announced last month it was considering lifting its national ban on gays, which it reaffirmed just last year. The Supreme Court deemed the policy constitutional in a 2000 ruling, but the pressure to nix the ban has increased in recent years. A handful of companies, including UPS, Intel, and Merck, have refused to donate to BSA because of it, and President Barack Obama pressed the group to back away from it in a television interview last week.

"The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to, you know, opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think that nobody should be barred (from) that," Obama said of the ban.

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The youth organization, which has 2.7 million members, prides itself on training boys and young men on outdoor skills and leadership. Its Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs are organized via hundreds of thousands of local troops across the country. The size and reach of the organization has led to a growing internal divide over the national ban on gay members.

The national organization has long been conservative—70 percent of its troops are chartered to religious organizations, according to Reuters—but troops farther away from the Texas headquarters have spoken out about the national ban on gay members. The board's proposal would lift the national ban, but not reverse it, allowing each troop to decide for itself whether to allow gay scouts and scoutmasters.

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