Boy Scouts of America Votes Today on Lifting Gay Youth Ban

( [email protected] ) May 23, 2013 12:46 PM EDT
1,400 Boy Scouts of America voting members gathered Thursday in Grapevine, Texas, to vote on the resolution to lift the ban on gay members proposed by the executive committee.
Boy Scouts of America’s 2010 National Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. (Cherie Cullen, AP)

1,400 Boy Scouts of America voting members gathered Thursday in Grapevine, Texas, to vote on the resolution to lift the ban on gay members proposed by the executive committee.

Those who oppose lifting of the gay membership ban lined part of the route between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and the Gaylord Texan Resort on Wednesday, according to Reuters, to greet arriving delegates with American flags and signs urging them to vote “no” to the membership policy change.

Wayne Perry, president of BSA, said in an op-ed to USA Today, that the policy change came about as a result of “extensive dialogue with the Scouting family,” and not the result of outside pressure. Yet, gay-rights activists have since gathered petitions with more than 1.8 million signatures in support of ending the ban.

About thirteen years ago, the Supreme Court has ruled that the 103-year-old BSA, a private membership organization, was free to decide who it would admit. Last summer, the Boy Scouts reaffirmed their anti-gay policy after a two-year examination by a committee. However, some local chapters have since been pushing for reconsideration. Then, BSA spent three months surveying members, talking to donors and discussing the issue with partner organizations. The reactions were mixed.

In a survey sent to more than 1 million adult members, 61 percent of the 200,000 respondents favored existing policy, but younger parents and teens “tend to oppose the policy,” BSA said in a report.

"The Boy Scouts are not listening to us," said John Stemberger, an Orlando lawyer, Eagle Scout, former scoutmaster and founder of an organization that opposes lifting the ban, according to Reuters.

Yet, the BSA executive committee unanimously endorsed this change in the proposed “membership standards resolution” that says “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

The resolution also reads: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

“We are unaware of any major religious chartered organization that believes a youth member simply stating that he or she is attracted to the same sex, but not engaging in sexual activity, should make him or her unwelcome in their congregation,” said Perry, adding that it is not the role of Boy Scouts to resolve the debate on homosexuality nor can the decision made today.

Meanwhile, over 70 percent of the Boy Scout units are sponsored by faith-based groups.

Last week, Dr. Frank Page, former president of Southern Baptist Convention, implored the Boy Scouts not to change the policy.

The Mormon Church has tacitly endorsed the plan; the National Catholic Council has yet to take a position.

“The Boy Scouts have always stood for timeless values,” Stemberger said. “Sex and politics have no place in the Boy Scouts.”

While Perry said that changing adult standards would have “conflicted with the majority of our partners…and would have disrupted our ability to deliver Scouting,” gay-rights advocates vowed to continue their campaign until the ban on gay adults is removed too.