The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has announced that it may end its policy of barring openly gay boys from membership and gay or lesbian adults from serving as leaders, just six months after deciding to keep it in place.
The New York Times reports the organisation said Monday that it was considering ending the ban, and allowing local scouting groups to choose for themselves whether to allow gay members.
“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations [sic] that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement.
“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”
Smith said that members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.
In July last year, the BSA announced it would retain its longtime ban on gay members.
Since 1991, the organisation has adopted a platform which states that homosexuality is “inconsistent with the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed”.
At the time, the BSA said the policy “reflect[ed] the beliefs and perspectives” of the organisation.
“While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society,” chief Scout executive Bob Mazzuca said.
“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”
The group had spent two years reconsidering the ban and was presented with a 275,000-signature petition in June 2012 asking for it to be dropped.
Petition campaigns had prompted some corporations to suspend donations to the BSA.
In 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled that the organisation could legally bar gay leaders and said the Scouts should not be forced to “accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organisation’s expressive message”.
A lesbian den mother from Ohio, Jennifer Tyrrell, was ousted from her position in April last year after her sexuality became known. A regional official resigned in protest at the expulsion.