Update 2:49 p.m. Eastern: Here's a breakdown of how the timeframe will work. The secret voting should by done in around 10 minutes, after that the Boy Scouts should be releasing a statement on the results of the vote:
Boy Scouts voting should be over at 3 PM Eastern. We expect a written statement from the scouts At 6 PM Eastern time.— Peter King (@PeterKingCBS) May 23, 2013
Original: The Boy Scouts of America will continue to disavow gay troop leaders, but the national council of the most high-profile youth group in the U.S. could change the tone and history of its extremely controversial anti-gay policies on Thursday by voting to allow openly gay scouts to join the organization. In a secret vote today, "more than 1,400 volunteer leaders from scouting's 270 councils" will vote whether or not to allow openly gay youths to participate in scouting, The New York Times's Erik Eckholm reports. That vote would dissolve a decades-long explicit restriction on gay members, a policy that which has been the root of vocal public criticism and internal conflict for an organization that prides itself on teaching young boys and men to do the right thing, but also has deep religious ties. The group is having its annual national gathering in Grapevine, Texas, a Dallas suburb, at this very moment — and under very serious pressure from gay rights groups and even its own president.
Word of a possible reversal surfaced in January amid a torrent of criticism from local chapters and Facebook pages, but the full vote was ultimately postponed in early February when the organization's Great Salt Lake Council, along with 32 other councils, urged that the discriminatory policy stay the same. And so we arrive at the hedge of today's decision: Gay scouts but no gay adults. "[Boy Scout executives] devised a plan that they hoped might defuse the debate, opening the door to gay youths but keeping it shut for gay adults, a step that, based on their surveys, they feared would cause mass defections," the Times's Eckholm writes.
Gay-rights group say is just the compromise is a step in the right direction —organizations like GLAAD have vowed to continue fighting until gay scout leaders are approved — but troops and organizations backing are still threatening to leave if gay young men are allowed in the Scouts. The Los Angeles Times's Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes:
If the proposal passes as expected, some troops and the religious groups that sponsor them will withdraw from the national organization, they have said — a dangerous possibility for a group whose membership has decreased by nearly 19% during the last decade, according to the most recent figures from 2011.
Both The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times have interviews with troop leaders who are protesting the vote because of their religious beliefs: "We're trying to uphold traditional values," one scout leader told Eckholm, while another told Fiske that "They're caving." Some parents simply don't want their sons sharing tents with young gay boys: "Admitting gays would create 'safety and security issues' at overnight campouts" is one of the concerns from an insinuating protester who spoke to Reuters. And religious groups like the Family Research Council are taking out full-page ads.
With the very vocal protests very much happening and Scout leaders pushing back vocally — both inside the group, on social media, and in the press — to make sure that the national council knows they do not want young gay boys in the organization, it would seem like a turnaround would be a long shot, even with the hedge vote. But consider the lobbying from the other side: High-profile members of the Scouts executive board like Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson have been vocal in denouncing the gay ban, President Obama has publicly urged the Scouts to reverse their policy, and on Wednesday, Boy Scouts President Wayne Perry wrote an op-ed in USA Today stating that the boys need to do away with their gay ban. "No matter what your opinion is on this issue, America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation's children," Perry wrote.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.