Boy Scout Delays Decision on Letting Gay Kids Join

A close-up shot of part of a Boy Scouts uniform

A week after reports that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) might loosen its ban on gay members and troop leaders, the group has announced that it’s delaying its decision on the proposed change.

On Wednesday, at a meeting of the Boy Scouts’ national board, the organization announced that the question would now go before the group’s national council three months from now.

“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,” the Boy Scouts said in an official statement.  “The approximately 1,400 voting members of the (Boy Scouts’) national council will take action on the resolution at the national meeting in May.”

The proposed new policy would let each individual troop decide whether to allow gay kids to join.

“There would no longer be any national policy,” Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said last week, according to the Associated Press.  “The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs.”

In other words, troops that want to keep on excluding gay kids would still be allowed to do that.

But for the first time, other troops would be free to let gay kids join – and not be forced to kick kids out for being honest about themselves.

The proposed change has sparked a storm of opposition from conservative Christian organizations.

But there’s also strong support in favor of the change.

In a scientific poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, 55% of all the people surveyed said they support ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members.

(In a scientific poll, the polltakers call a large number of people at random to make sure they’re getting a true sample of what people are thinking.  You can’t call in and vote.  That way, people can’t slant the poll one way or the other.)

In a number of court cases, judges have ruled that as a private group, the Scouts have a right to decide who can join and who can’t.

And in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed, saying that the Boy Scouts have a right to exclude gay kids.

That has been the group’s policy up until now.

And that’s the policy that conservative groups support.

“The BSA board should publicly re-affirm (its) current standards,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, in an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday.

But the Boy Scouts have been under significant pressure in recent years – from outside and from within – to change their policy.

“I can’t urge (the Boy Scouts) enough to make sure that every young man is eligible … to be a scout,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Eagle Scout himself, according to the Associated Press.

Some of the pressure to change is financial.

The Scouts have reportedly lost a significant amount of donations in recent years – donations from large companies have non-discrimination policies.

Those companies say they will no longer give the Scouts money, because the Scouts don’t have the same policy.

And according to published reports, some high-ranking members of the Boy Scouts’ own national board now consider the anti-gay policy discriminatory.

It’s not clear what the group’s national council will decide in May – if anything.

The only thing that’s clear right now is that when it comes to the Boy Scouts, gay kids are still on the outside looking in.