Eagle Scout Will Oliver, from left, former Scoutmaster Greg Bourke, former den leader Jennifer Tyrrell and Eric Andresen, right, a parent of a gay scout deliver boxes filled with a petition to the statue in front of the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas. / Tony Gutierrez, AP
The Boy Scouts of America decided Wednesday to delay a controversial vote that may have overturned the group's longstanding ban on gays.
In a statement, the organization said it needed more time for "a more deliberate review of its membership policy" and would take action on the issue during its National Annual Meeting in May.
The group announced last week that it was considering taking a vote this week on the policy that bars openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders from joining the 103-year-old organization, sparking heated and widespread debate on both sides of the issue. Activists and former Scout leaders opposed to the ban delivered four boxes containing a petition with 1.4 million signatures and comments to the BSA's Irving, Texas, headquarters on Monday.
BSA's decision to delay the vote will only increase the outrage that has mounted against the group in recent months over its anti-gay policy, Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), said in a statement. The alliance has led the recent opposition against the ban.
"They had the chance to end the pain this ban has caused to young people and parents," he said. "They chose to extend the pain."
Other groups, such as the Austin-based conservative advocacy group Texas Values, feel the policy should stay in place. The group organized a rally of more than 300 people outside the Boy Scout's headquarters urging the organization to not change its policy on gays, President Jonathan Saenz said.
"The pressure of this issue is coming from homosexual advocacy groups and corporate America," he said. "They don't have the Boy Scouts' best interest at heart."
President Obama, an opponent of the policy, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout who supports it, both have weighed in.
"My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life," said Obama, who as U.S. president is the honorary president of BSA, in a Sunday interview with CBS.
Perry, the author of the book On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, said in a speech Saturday that "to have popular culture impact 100 years of their standards is inappropriate."
Two high-profile board members - Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson - who run companies with nondiscrimination policies and have said they would work from within to change the Scouts' policy.
Conservatives have warned of mass defections if Scouting allows gay membership to be determined by troops. Local and regional leaders, as well as the leadership of churches that sponsor troops, would be forced to consider their own policies. And policy opponents who delivered four boxes of signatures to BSA headquarters Monday said they wouldn't be satisfied by only a partial acceptance of gay Scouts and Scout leaders.
"We don't want to see Scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts," said Brad Hankins, campaign director of Scouts for Equality.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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