The Boy Scouts of America today delayed until May its vote on whether to lift its ban on gay members, after a board meeting in Texas determined more deliberation was needed.
"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," said Deron Smith, the organization’s director of public relations.
From here, the executive board is set to prepare a resolution for the 1,400 voting members of the national council to consider at the annual meeting in May in Grapevine, Texas.
In public, the board has remained largely silent on the topic. Reporters were barred from the hotel where the latest round of meetings were taking place.
In 2000, Boy Scouts of America narrowly won a U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow the organization to continue the ban. Youth membership has declined 21 per cent to less than 2.7 million scouts since then, Reuters reports.
But the biggest motivation to change may be money. Big donors — from computer giant Intel to Hollywood director Stephen Spielberg — have withdrawn their support of the organization.
There has also been a shift in the American political landscape.
During a nationally televised interview, President Barack Obama campaigned on his support of gay marriage, and called on the Boy Scouts to drop its ban.
Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay former den leader, was kicked out of her son’s troop in Ohio. Since then, she has started a petition for the Scouts to accept gays, and it has been signed by over a million people.
"Even though my Scout parents loved me and constantly thanked me for all the hard work I did, I was still removed based on this archaic policy that just needs to be changed," Tyrrell told CBC News.
Religious groups condemn idea
Boy Scouts has strong religious ties. Nearly half of U.S. scouts belong to troops sponsored by churches. Many worry that accepting gays would mean losing scouts.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently ran to lead the Republican Party, has condemned the idea of now allowing gays in the Boy Scouts.
"Scouting is about teaching a substantial amount of life lessons," Perry said. "Sexuality is not one of them. It never has been, it doesn't need to be."
In Canada and other major scouting countries — including Britain and Germany — gays are allowed to become members.