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

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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)

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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)

Related headlines

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 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 comments to the Baptist Press, the denomination's official news agency, SBC President Fred Luter suggested that "prayers of the righteous" played a role in the BSA decision.

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting said it would join in the BSA's consultations over the coming months. Whatever the outcome, the committee said, "Catholic chartered units will continue to provide leaders who promote and live Catholic values."

Michael Purdy, a spokesman at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquarters in Utah, said the BSA "acted wisely in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important moral issue."

The extra time will give local Scout leaders in Utah and elsewhere time to determine how their members feel about the proposal, said Kay Godfrey, a spokesman for Boy Scouts in the Great Salt Lake Council. The heavily Mormon council is one of the largest in the country, with 5,500 troops and 73,400 youth members.

"It's so important and so historic in nature that serious deliberation over time, involving a broad spectrum of folks, is needed," Godfrey said.

Outside BSA headquarters, hundreds of supporters of the ban held a rally and prayer vigil Wednesday, carrying signs that read, "Don't invite sin into the camp" and "Homosexuality is a sin! BSA please resist Satan's test. Uphold the ban."

Scoutmaster Darrel Russell of Weatherford, west of Fort Worth, took his wife and five of their seven children to the rally. Russell said having gays in the scouting movement would be like mixing boys and girls.

"The whole idea is to protect our boys at all costs," Russell said, warning that if the ban is lifted, "we're shutting down our troop."

Among those joining the debate was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Eagle Scout who told reporters the ban should be lifted.

"I can't urge them enough to make sure that every young man is eligible, regardless of his orientation, to be a scout and to benefit from a great program that really helps kids develop," he said.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment on the BSA's delay but reiterated President Barack Obama's view that gays should be able to participate in the Scouts.

Members of the Scouts' executive board remained silent about their deliberations during and after their meeting. Police and security guards blocked journalists from entering the meeting area, and board members approached as they walked to their cars outside the hotel declined to comment.

However, it's likely the board — and corporations that contribute to the BSA — will face continued pressure.

By delaying the vote, the Scouts "have guaranteed continuing controversy and increased pressures on corporate sponsors to withdraw funding," said professor Kenneth Sherrill, a gay rights advocate who teaches political science at Hunter College in New York.

No national polling has been released conveying how current Scout parents and leaders feel about the ban. But overall, U.S. voters favor eliminating it by 55 percent to 33 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Quinnipiac said the poll's margin of error was plus/minus 2.3 percentage points.

"Now that the armed forces ban on openly gay service members has been lifted, and polls show increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage, most American voters think it's time to open up the Boy Scouts, too," said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac's Polling Institute.

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