Boy Scouts of America is considering a proposal to drop its ban on gay scouts. The policy change would allow gay scouts, but continue the existing ban on gay adults serving in leadership roles.
The proposal was drafted by the organization's executive committee after it received 200,000 responses to a survey sent to one million members of the "scouting community" in February.
According to the Boy Scouts, 61 percent of survey respondents favored the existing ban and 34 percent wanted it repealed, The Associated Press reports. Scouts and younger adults were more inclined to support changing the policy.
An overwhelming majority of respondents, however, said it would be unacceptable to deny Eagle Scout badges to gay scouts.
The 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America National Council will vote on the proposal May 20.
"The proposed resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," said a statement from the Boy Scouts quoted by the AP.
The proposal says "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone," Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith told Reuters.
Like the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which was rescinded in September 2011, the Boy Scouts ban was motivated in part by concerns about sexual relationships among members.
The ban also operates as a policy statement that is favored by religious and socially conservative groups that sponsor many scouting troops. In its widely circulated survey the Boy Scouts asked about the possible impact on troop sponsorship. Fifty-one percent of major donors oppose removing the ban, according to the AP.
Although the ban is unenforced or ignored in some instances, it has resulted in a string of bad press for the national organization that currently boasts 2,658,794 scouts and 1,039,825 adult leaders.
In 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that the organization has a right to decide who it allows as members. In addition to its ban on gay members, the group also bans atheists.