Boy Scouts delay decision on policy excluding gays
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting said it would join in the BSA's consultations over the coming months. Whatever the outcome, the committee said, "Catholic chartered units will continue to provide leaders who promote and live Catholic values."
Michael Purdy, a spokesman at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquarters in Utah, said the BSA "acted wisely in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important moral issue."
The extra time will give local Scout leaders in Utah and elsewhere time to determine how their members feel about the proposal, said Kay Godfrey, a spokesman for Boy Scouts in the Great Salt Lake Council. The heavily Mormon council is one of the largest in the country, with 5,500 troops and 73,400 youth members.
"It's so important and so historic in nature that serious deliberation over time, involving a broad spectrum of folks, is needed," Godfrey said.
Outside BSA headquarters, hundreds of supporters of the ban held a rally and prayer vigil Wednesday, carrying signs that read, "Don't invite sin into the camp" and "Homosexuality is a sin! BSA please resist Satan's test. Uphold the ban."
Scoutmaster Darrel Russell of Weatherford, west of Fort Worth, took his wife and five of their seven children to the rally. Russell said having gays in the scouting movement would be like mixing boys and girls.
"The whole idea is to protect our boys at all costs," Russell said, warning that if the ban is lifted, "we're shutting down our troop."
Among those joining the debate was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Eagle Scout who told reporters the ban should be lifted.
"I can't urge them enough to make sure that every young man is eligible, regardless of his orientation, to be a scout and to benefit from a great program that really helps kids develop," he said.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment on the BSA's delay but reiterated President Barack Obama's view that gays should be able to participate in the Scouts.
Members of the Scouts' executive board remained silent about their deliberations during and after their meeting. Police and security guards blocked journalists from entering the meeting area, and board members approached as they walked to their cars outside the hotel declined to comment.
However, it's likely the board — and corporations that contribute to the BSA — will face continued pressure.
By delaying the vote, the Scouts "have guaranteed continuing controversy and increased pressures on corporate sponsors to withdraw funding," said professor Kenneth Sherrill, a gay rights advocate who teaches political science at Hunter College in New York.
No national polling has been released conveying how current Scout parents and leaders feel about the ban. But overall, U.S. voters favor eliminating it by 55 percent to 33 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Quinnipiac said the poll's margin of error was plus/minus 2.3 percentage points.
"Now that the armed forces ban on openly gay service members has been lifted, and polls show increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage, most American voters think it's time to open up the Boy Scouts, too," said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac's Polling Institute.
Crary reported from New York.
Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle in Irving, Texas; Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.
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