(Photo: REUTERS/Darrell Byers)
Boy Scouts officials in Houston, Texas, voted Monday to maintain the organization's policies that bar openly gay youth who seek to participate in troop activities.
The Board of Directors of the Sam Houston Area Council voted to support the current membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America, which "does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, but does not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA," the council said in a statement.
The Houston-area council's vote followed an extensive survey of parents, adult leaders, chartered partners and financial partners, who, by a 75 percent majority, support maintaining the Boy Scouts national policy for membership standards, and oppose a proposed resolution that would lift the ban on openly gay members. Officials from the council said their survey results match the outcomes from an independent survey of their member parents and leaders that was conducted by the BSA.
Nationwide, the BSA's own official "Voice of the Scout" survey shows respondents support the current ban on openly homosexual members and leaders, 61 percent to 34 percent. Additionally, 72 percent of chartered organizations and 61 percent of Boy Scout parents support the current policy.
Representatives from the Sam Houston Area Council will account for 12 of the 1,400 votes for the national council of the Boy Scouts of America, who will be voting on a resolution to change their policy banning openly gay members at their annual business meeting in Texas on May 23.
Regarding the upcoming vote, Rodney Eads, chairman of the board of directors for the Houston-area council, which serves 50,000 youth in scouting programs and 20,000 volunteers, said in a statement that he understands members have varying points of view, and added that their local council will "support and implement all policies of the Boy Scouts of America, regardless of the outcome of the upcoming vote."
The BSA has been considering a change to its current ban on open homosexuals. It released a proposal earlier this month that states: "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." While allowing gay members, the Scouts would at the same time maintain its gay ban when it comes to leadership.
Many within the BSA have expressed concern about possible schisms or defections in light of removing the national policy. For example, 39 percent of Scout organizations are overseen by three religious sects that consider homosexuality a sin: The Roman Catholic Church, The United Methodist Church, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The announcement has also stirred the ire of many conservative organizations, such as the Family Research Council, which believed that the BSA was caving into pressure from liberal corporate sponsors and pro-gay activists.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has said the proposed resolution is "incoherent," because it would convey the message that "homosexuality is morally acceptable until a boy turns 18…"
Perkins also warned that the resolution would make BSA vulnerable to lawsuits because it would no longer uphold its argument that considering homosexual conduct as immoral is a core value, which helped BSA win in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Family Research Council will host a nationwide simulcast event, called "Stand with Scouts Sunday," on May 5, to call on BSA to reaffirm its longstanding policy on homosexuality. The simulcast can be seen here: www.standwithscoutssunday.org