Just days after a Maryland-based Cub Scout pack was forced to back down on a non-discriminatory pledge because of a reference to sexual orientation, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) might be changing its national stance toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
NBC cites a number of "scouting officials and outsiders familiar with internal discussions" who say a revised BSA policy would not only lift the ban on gay participants from the national youth organization's rules, but also allow local sponsoring organizations to decide for themselves whether or not to admit gay scouts.
“The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” BSA Director of Public Relations Deron Smith tells the site, adding that individual sponsors and parents “would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families."
Discussions are reportedly nearing their final stages and if approved, the policy change could be announced as early as next week, NBC notes. Read the full story here.
Among those to praise the possible change was Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) President Herndon Graddick, who noted the shift "will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect" in an email statement.
Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls echoed those sentiments. "This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction," Wahls, who's also a HuffPost blogger, is quoted as saying. "We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in Scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well.”
Last year, the BSA "emphatically reaffirmed" its policy of excluding gays as both leaders and Scouts, according to the Associated Press.
"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 Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuci, told the AP, before noting that "no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."
Prior to that declaration, the BSA's anti-gay policy had been the subject of frequent debate following the case of Jennifer Tyrrell, who was forced to resign as leader of her 7-year-old son's Tiger Scout den after revealing she is a lesbian.
UPDATE: Smith has released an official statement with regard to the potential policy change:
"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. 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.”