After a confidential two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday emphatically reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays, ruling out any changes despite relentless protest campaigns by some critics.
A special committee formed by top Scout leaders in 2010 "came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts," the organization's national spokesman, Deron Smith, told The Associated Press.
Smith said the committee, comprised of professional scout executives and adult volunteers, was unanimous in its conclusion — preserving a long-standing policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 and has remained controversial.
The Scouts did not identify the members of the special committee but said in a statement that they represented "a diversity of perspectives and opinions."
"With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued," he said. "They've chosen to teach division and intolerance."
The Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, contended that most Scout families support the policy, which applies to both leaders and Scouts.
"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Mazzuca said. "We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."
The announcement suggests that hurdles may be high for a couple of members of the national executive board — Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson — who have recently indicated they would try to work from within to change the policy. Both of their companies have been commended by gay-rights groups for gay-friendly employment policies.
Stephenson is on track to become president of the Scouts' national board in 2014 and will likely face continued pressure from gay-rights groups.
Since 2000, the Boy Scouts have been targeted with numerous protest campaigns and run afoul of some local nondiscrimination laws because of the membership policy.
One protest campaign involves Jennifer Tyrrell, the mother of a 7-year-old Cub Scout who was ousted as aScout den mother because she is lesbian. Change.org, an online forum supporting activist causes, says more than 300,000 people have signed its petition urging the Scouts to reinstate Tyrrell and abandon the exclusion policy. The petition is to be delivered to the Scouts' national headquarters in Texas on Wednesday.