The BSA falls far behind the Boy Scouts of Canada, which has had gay scouts and leaders since 2000.
Under current rules in the U.S., scout units must completely exclude gays from membership. The proposed change would allow the different religious and civic groups sponsoring Scout units to decide individually whether or not to open up membership to gays. Groups would still have the option to continue the policy of exclusion.
The organization says it is not considering revising its current policy regarding atheism, which is not allowed in the strongly religious organization.
The proposed change to the BSAs policies on gays comes on the heels of widespread public criticism of the organization for their exclusionist policies.
Last year, the BSA drew heat for kicking out Ohio den leader Jennnifer Tyrrell after discovering the mom was a lesbian. They also drew ire for denying the application of gay California teen Ryan Andresen last fall. The organization has also lost sponsorship dollars from shipping company UPS and drug manufacturer Merck & Co. who both announced they would no longer make donations until the no-gays policy was abolished.
“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” Herndon Graddick, president of gay rights group, GLAAD, tells the Associated Press. “Scouting is a valuable institution, and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect.”
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Church — one of the biggest sponsors of the scouts — expressed dismay at the decision to table the proposal.