After being inundated by petitions, emails, and phone calls, the Boy Scouts of America has delayed making any decision. The group's board, which had been considering repealing its ban on gay scouts and troop leaders, said it will instead wait for a national meeting in May.
Today's board meeting was touted by the group itself as a potential turning point in the decades-long stalemate. On the table was a proposal to remove the national organization's ban while instead allowing local troops to decide for themselves.
"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 executive board announced in a statement today. The group said the board would "further engage" the ranks of the Scouts before 1,400 voting members convene at its national annual meeting in May.
(RELATED TIMELINE: The Scouts' Decades Long Evolution on Gay Ban)
The idea was announced soon after the national BSA pressured a reversal of policy out of a Maryland scout troop that had said it wouldn't discriminate based on sexual orientation. The scout troop directed complaints to the national office. And that capped a recent spate of bad publicity for the group, including den mother Jennifer Tyrrell ousted for being a lesbian, Ryan Andresen being rejected for an Eagle Scout medal for being gay, and a rash of medals being mailed back to the main office in protest.
The national BSA originally encouraged the public to offer feedback on its proposal to repeal the ban. And it may have gotten more than expected, quickly announcing it would stop taking phone calls. In the world of politics, the regular right-wingers — such as Tony Perkins, Rick Santorum, and Pat Robertson — chimed in vociferously against the repeal. And President Obama reiterated his support for a repeal in a Sunday evening interview on CBS.
After activists Monday delivered petitions bearing 1.4 million signatures calling for an end to the ban, BSA spokesman Deron Smith acknowledged the immense pressure the group is under from all sides. "The BSA has received a great deal of feedback from a variety of viewpoints," he said, "and we appreciate everyone sharing their perspective on this issue."