The Boy Scouts of America has backed off a proposal to ease its policy of excluding gays and delayed a vote until May.
"Due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," said 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."
Buffalo, NY (WBEN) The issue of gay scouts or leaders has been a non-issue in Western New York, says the Scout Executive for the Greater Niagara Frontier Council.
"It's been basically in the media, the national council has issued its statement, but I've not had any discussions about it," says Russell Etzenhouser. "In terms of youth in the scouting problem, it's not an issue that really comes up."
Etzenhouser says he's worked for the Scouts in 20 years, but says sexuality is not something Scouts deal with, nor should.
How will the national council vote? "I have no way of telling, this is an unsettled issue and Scouting reflects that unsettled nature," says Etzenhouser.
He says the focus should be on helping young men become participating citizens in Scouting.
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 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.
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.
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.
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."
- Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values
"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
"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.
"It's not a place to have homosexuals with our boys. If this happens, we're shutting down our troop."
- Scoutmaster Darrel Russell
"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
"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
"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
"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