The Boy Scouts of America on Wednesday said it has no plans to end its 102-year-old policy banning gay scouts and gay and lesbian scout leaders, despite receiving an online petition containing more than 275,000 signatures urging a reversal of the anti-gay policy.
Last week, LGBT advocate Zach Wahls — an Eagle Scout and the son of lesbian parents — accompanied by officials from Change.org, delivered the a petition asking for the reinstatement of Jennifer Tyrrell, a volunteer den mother who was ousted from the group in April because she is lesbian.
In an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, Wahls said that he was told that the Boy Scouts is considering a newly proposed resolution that calls for ending the ban.
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Robert Mazzuca, chief executive of the Scouts confirmed Wednesday a resolution was referred to a committee for review after receiving the petition last week, but told USA Today that “we have no plans at the moment to make any changes.”
The resolution to amend the national policy to allow each of the Scouting’s chartered groups to set its own standards regarding gay members was submitted by a Scout leader from the northeast before April 30, the deadline for submitting resolutions to the meeting, said BSA spokesperson Deron Smith.
Smith said Wednesday that it would review the proposal insisting there were no plans to change the policy.
Smith said that the BSA’s decision to accept the petition last week was “not related to the resolution,” and that doing so was out of respect for different points of view.
“While we’ll carefully consider this resolution, there are no plans to change this policy,” he said, noting that resolutions and petitions on the matter were “not unique” and dated back to 2000, when the Supreme Court heard a challenge over their stance — at that time, the justices sided with the Boy Scouts in the lawsuit involving a former Assistant Scoutmaster who was gay.
“There has been discussion about the BSA’s membership policy for decades. The BSA respectfully considers a wide range of views on this issue. Scouting has concluded its longstanding policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members,” Smith said.
“Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its youth program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right.”
Smith noted that other resolutions had been introduced in the past “admonishing us to not change the policy. We have millions of youth and adult members each with a variety of beliefs about this issue and no single policy will accommodate everyone’s views.”
Nevertheless, Wahls told MSNBC that he was “absolutely ecstatic” when he heard about the resolution to change the policy.
“Clearly this shows that there’s a little bit more internal discussion than they might be outwardly describing, so in a very real sense this was in a lot of ways kind of the best possible, most realistic outcome of that delivery of that Change.org petition,” Wahls said.
“Up to the day they end this policy, they’ll be saying they have no plans to do so,” he added. “But there’s no question it’s costing the Boy Scouts in terms of membership and public support.”
Smith said that the resolution has been referred to a committee for review, and that it would report back to the national executive board. The board then decides what actions are “appropriate,” he said.
The process would likely be completed by May 2013, Smith said.