The Boy Scouts of America's decades-long national policy of banning gay scouts and ex-communicating gay scout leaders could be crashing down, set to be replaced by a new policy that would leave admissions decisions to local sponsoring organizations. "The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs," to Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts' national organization told NBC News's Pete Williams. Smith adds that parents and individual sponsors would then "be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families."
The move, still subject to a board vote, would represent a huge turnaround for the private youth organization, which as recently as this month was reasserting its controversial stance on gay rights on a local level. Last July, after two year studying its policy, the Boy Scouts announced that the group wouldn't lift its national ban on gays. At the time, Smith, the spokesman, said that the ban was "absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts."
Today's NBC report doesn't explain what exactly moved the organization to change its views, but since that July announcement, the Scouts have been combating a firestorm of backlash from within and outside of their organization. Two of the Boy Scouts's national board members, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst &Young's CEO James Turley, both said they'd be working on eliminating the ban. Local tales of Eagle Scout status being denied, like that of Brian Andresen — and many more emotional stories like his — have captured the attention of the public, fellow scouts, and have gotten lawmakers like Senator Barbara Boxer and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom involved.
"If approved, the change could be announced as early as next week, after the BSA's national board holds a regularly scheduled meeting," writes Williams. The ban will remain intact until February 4, when the board results are revealed.
Update: Here's a full statement from the Boy Scouts of America — emphasis ours...
For more than 100 years, Scouting’s focus has been on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.
Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.
The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.