Traditional-values groups thanked the Boy Scouts of America on Wednesday for delaying a decision on whether to change their membership policy on gays, saying it will permit more voices to be heard on the white-hot social issue.
However, gay-rights groups quickly chastised Boy Scout leaders for perpetuating discrimination with its “awful” policy.
“Every day that the Boy Scouts of America delay action is another day that discrimination prevails,” said Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign.
Boy Scout leaders said they would not decide immediately on the policy change because of “the complexity of this issue,” spokesman Deron Smith said Wednesday. Instead, Boy Scout leaders will prepare a resolution about the policy and present it for a vote by 1,400 Scout leaders at its annual meeting in May, he said.
The announcement disappointed gay-rights activists and their allies.
“A Scout is supposed to be brave, and the Boy Scouts failed to be brave today,” said former Tiger Cub den leader Jennifer Tyrrell, whose Scout membership was revoked last year after regional leaders in Ohio learned that she was a lesbian. “No parents should have to look their child in the eye and explain that the Boy Scouts don’t want us,” she said, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
The decision Wednesday “is an abdication of responsibility,” said Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality. Mr. Wahls, although not gay himself, was raised by two lesbian mothers, and has rallied support to overturn the ban.
Most Americans want the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays overturned, said Mr. Griffin, citing a Quinnipiac University poll of 1,772 registered voters. The poll found that 55 percent wanted the policy overturned, 33 percent wanted it maintained and 12 percent declined to offer an opinion. “The BSA leadership should end this awful policy once and for all,” he said.
Others thanked the Boy Scouts of America for its forbearance.
“The leaders of the Boy Scouts were wise not to abandon their long-standing national membership standards, as they were reportedly on the brink of doing,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
“However, it is not enough that they postpone a decision,” Mr. Perkins said. The Boy Scouts board “should publicly reaffirm their current standards, as they did just last July.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the Scouting organization “acted wisely in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important moral issue.”
Larry Coppock, national director of Scouting Ministries of United Methodist Men, said the delay “is what we were hoping for — an opportunity to have further dialogue and meaningful discussions.”
Mormon, United Methodist, Catholic and Baptist churches are among the major chartering organizations for the Boy Scouts’ 2.7 million members and 1 million volunteers.
Boy Scout membership policy mirrors the military’s now-discarded, “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”