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Boy Scouts delay decision on admitting gays

  • Scott Hines, scoutmaster for Troop 16 and his son Garrett, pray during a prayer vigil in the First Baptist Church Moores Lane in Texarkana, Texas on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Members of the troop, parents, and others prayed that the Boy Scouts of America would continue to keep their policy of excluding gay scouts and scoutmasters. The national executive board of the BSA began closed meetings on Monday to discus the policy. (AP Photo/Texarkana Gazette, Adam Sacasa)

IRVING, Texas — Caught in an ideological crossfire, the Boy Scouts of America is putting off until May a decision on whether to ease its policy of excluding gays. Whatever the organization eventually does, it's likely to anger major constituencies and worsen schisms within Scouting.

The delay, which the Scouts attributed to "the complexity of this issue," was announced Wednesday after closed-door deliberations by the BSA's national executive board. Under consideration was a proposal to ease the longstanding ban on gays by allowing sponsors of local troops to decide for themselves on the membership of gay Scouts and adult leaders.

As the board met over three days at a hotel near Dallas, it became clear that the proposal would be unacceptable to large numbers of impassioned Scouting families and advocacy groups on both the left and right.

The iconic youth organization is now deeply entangled in the broader cultural and political conflicts over such issues as same-sex marriage and religious freedom. Tilting toward either side will probably alienate the other, and a midway balancing act will be difficult.

Gay-rights supporters contend that no Scout units anywhere should exclude gays, and vowed to maintain pressure on the BSA's corporate donors to achieve that goal. Some conservatives, including religious leaders whose churches sponsor troops, warned of mass defections if the ban were even partially eased. They urged supporters to flood headquarters with phone calls.


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