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.
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The debate about the ban follows a series of moves recognizing gay rights in the United States in the past year.Skip to next paragraph
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The U.S. military now permits gay and lesbian members to serve openly, and residents in Maine, Maryland and Washington state voted to approve gay marriage in November, the first states to do so through the ballot box.
A national poll released by Quinnipiac University on Wednesday found a solid majority of registered voters, 55 percent to 33 percent, favored ending the ban.
Men supported lifting the ban by 49 percent to 39 percent and women by 61 percent to 27 percent, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,772 registered voters from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4 and had a 2.3 percentage points margin of error.
Gay rights activists, who have said it would not go far enough to lift the national ban but permit local bans to stand, said they were disappointed by the decision to put off a vote.
"A scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave today," Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian from Ohio who was forced out as a den leader, said in a statement. "The Boy Scouts had the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents, but they've failed us yet again."
Tyrrell and other activists delivered more than 1.4 million signatures to the Boy Scouts on Monday on petitions seeking an end to the policy.
The Boy Scouts won a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that upheld its right to ban gays, but the organization has come under increasing public pressure in recent years from activists.
Youth membership in the organization, which prides itself on teaching boys life skills such as camping and leadership, has declined 21 percent to less than 2.7 million since 2000.
The Boy Scouts also face criticism for keeping from public view decades of reports on child sex abuse in the organization. It released thousands of pages of files covering 1965 to 1985 in October under a court order.
Two board members have said publicly they support a change: Jim Turley, chairman and chief executive of Ernst & Young, and AT&T Inc CEO Randall Stephenson. A spokeswoman for Turley and spokesman for Stephenson said on Wednesday they declined to comment on the board's decision to delay a vote until May.