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Boy Scouts delay decision on allowing gays in Scouting

IRVING, Texas – The Boy Scouts of America today delayed its decision on whether to make the Scouts inclusive by ending its policy that banned gay members.

The national board was expected to vote on the issue today, but announced instead that it would hold off until May after taking a vote of the 1,400 members of the National Council that will be meeting in Grapevine, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

The Scouts are under enormous pressure to change its discriminatory policy, and President Barack Obama on Super Bowl Sunday said he is in favor of including gays in Scouting.

Deron Smith, spokesman for the Scouts, said the board decided to craft a resolution to be presented to the National Council for a vote.

"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," Smith said in a statement.

Just this week, the Scouts received 1.4 million signatures of Americans who urged an end to discrimination. SDGLN media partner GLAAD has that story.

Today, GLAAD's president, Herndon Graddick, expressed disappointment in the delay.

"An organization that serves youth and chooses to intentionally hurt dedicated young people and hardworking parents not only flies in the face of American principles, but the principles of being a Boy Scout," Graddick said. "The Boy Scouts of America is choosing to ignore the cries of millions, including religious institutions, current scouting families, and corporate sponsors, but these cries will not be silenced. We're living in a culture where hurting young gay people because of who they are is unpopular and discriminatory. They had the chance to end the pain this ban has caused to young people and parents, they chose to extend the pain."

Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mom from Bridgeport, Ohio, who was ousted as the leader of her son's Cub Scout Pack in April 2012 because of her sexual orientation, helped spark a national movement calling on the Boy Scouts to change its policy. Tyrrell, with the support of GLAAD, started a petition on Change.org that rallied hundreds of thousands urging the Boy Scouts to welcome gay Scouts and leaders.

"A Scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave today," Tyrrell said. "The Boy Scouts had the chance to help countless young people and devoted parents, but they've failed us yet again. No parent should have to loo their child in the eye and explain that the Boy Scouts don't want us. Our fight will continue and we will continue to educate donors and supporters of the Boy Scouts about the effects of their anti-gay policy."

Zach Wahls, a straight Eagle Scout with two gay moms and founder of the organization Scouts for Equality, said that today's news was simply not a strong enough gesture from the Boy Scouts of America to ensure that they take discrimination seriously.

"This is an abdication of responsibility," Wahls said. "By postponing this decision, the BSA has caved to those who argue that their anti-gay attitudes trump basic Scouting values of kindness, courtesy and bravery. Scouting was built on a foundation of respect and dignity. Today, the BSA cracked that foundation."

Other groups, including Change.org, were also organizing petitions to encourage the Scouts to change its policy.

"On Monday, the Boy Scouts of America received 1.4 million petition signatures urging the organization to end its national policy banning gay youth and parents, and today, those voices went unanswered," said Change.org senior campaign manager Mark Anthony Dingbaum. "With 9 national campaigns and over 50 local campaigns already launched on Change.org calling for an end to the BSA's policy, how many more stories of gay youth and leaders, like Ryan Andresen and Jen Tyrrell, need to surface before the Boy Scouts decide to end this policy?"

More than 1 million people have joined Change.org petition campaigns since Tyrrell launched her first petition. Since that day, advocacy efforts and successful petition campaigns have recruited two Boy Scout board members -- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley -- to denounce the national anti-gay policy. GLAAD, together with Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality Zach Wahls, have also used Change.org petitions to pressure corporate donors such as Intel and UPS to pull funding until the Boy Scouts end their policy banning gay youth and
parents. Last fall, a Bay Area mother named Karen Andresen petitioned her local Boy Scout council to honor her son Ryan with an Eagle Award that was denied to him when the Scout came out as gay. An official Eagle Board Board of Review unanimously approved Ryan's application for Eagle, but a Boy Scout executive ultimately rejected his application.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, quickly reacted to the delay.

“Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delay action is another day that discrimination prevails,” Griffin said. “Now is the time for action. Young Americans, gay and straight, are hurt by the inaction associated with today’s news. The BSA leadership should end this awful policy once and for all, and open the proud tradition of Scouting to all.”

Poll results released today by Quinnipiac University shows a strong majority of U.S. voters believe it is time for BSA to end its ban on openly gay members. Only 33% of voters said the ban should remain in place.