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Boy Scouts delay decision on gay membership (+video)

The board of the Boy Scouts determined it needed more time to consider its policy banning gay people from participating. The board delayed the policy vote until a national meeting scheduled for May. A coalition of faith-based groups pushed for the delay. 

By Marice RichterReuters / February 6, 2013


IRVING, Texas

The Boy Scouts of America on Wednesday delayed to May a vote on whether to end a longstanding controversial ban on gay participants, giving a membership deeply divided by the possible change more time to air their concerns.

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Board members for the private youth organization, which turns 103 years old on Friday, had been expected to vote on the matter at a meeting on Wednesday. The Boy Scouts upheld the ban just last year amid sharp criticism from gay rights groups.

The Boy Scouts touched off fierce lobbying by groups both for and against changing the policy when it said on Jan. 28 that it was considering removing a national restriction based on sexual orientation and leaving the decision to local chapters.

Even President Barack Obama, who favors lifting the ban, and Texas Governor Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout who supports the ban, weighed in ahead of the Boy Scout's national executive board meeting this week near its headquarters in Irving, Texas.

"In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public," the Boy Scouts said in a statement that noted it had considered "extensive dialogue" within the membership and outside comments.

The board has concluded that "due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," the statement added.

The Boy Scouts said the roughly 1,400 voting members of its national council will take action on a membership standards resolution at its national meeting in May.

A coalition of 33 faith-based councils that represent about one-fifth of all youth members in the Boy Scouts had asked the board to delay the vote. Reaction to the delay was swift.

"This is no doubt a major victory for moral values, but it is a temporary one," said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, a group that organized a vigil supporting the ban on Wednesday and the parent of a Scout.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout who has two lesbian mothers and is the founder of Scouts for Equality, called the delay "an abdication of responsibility."

"By postponing this decision," Wahls said in a statement, "the BSA has caved to those who argue that their anti-gay attitudes trump basic scouting values of kindness, courtesy and bravery."

American voters favor lifting ban: Poll 

More than 22,800 people had registered comments with the Boy Scouts on the group's Facebook page from its announcement that it was considering lifting the ban until Wednesday's statement.

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